Matthew Bowen, a Border Patrol agent who was set to go on trial this month after intentionally hitting a Guatemalan man with his truck and then lying about it to investigators, has accepted a plea deal, The New York Times reports, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for violating the rights of Antolin Lopez Aguilar.
Bowen had been on indefinite suspension since his indictment but should have never been in the job in the first place, because text messages his attorney sought to block showed him calling migrants, like his victim Lopez Aguilar, “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire,” “mindless murdering savages” and asking, “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”
As part of his plea deal, Bowen has resigned from Border Patrol—he had been suspended due to his indictment—and could face up to $100,000 in fines but only a year in prison. “During my apprehension of [Lopez Aguilar], I intentionally struck him with an unreasonable amount of force,” his statement reads. “My actions when I struck A.L.-A. were not justified and violated his rights protected by the Constitution of the United States.”
He definitely violated Lopez Aguilar’s rights by trying to kill him with his truck. In one text, Bowen said “I bumped a guat with a truck while driving about 7 mph. No injury at all and tonk refused medical.” Both “Guat” and “tonk” offensively refer to Lopez Aguilar: “some agents claim [it] is an innocent acronym, the Arizona Republic reported, and others say is a slur derived from the sound of hitting an immigrant on the head with a flashlight.” Lopez Aguilar was in fact injured and was hospitalized.
“The plea deal allowed Bowen to avoid a jury trial,” Arizona Republic continued. “He acknowledged that U.S. prosecutors had enough evidence against him to secure a guilty verdict, including testimony from other agents who expressed their dismay over the December 2017 incident.” The attorney, Sean Chapman, ”successfully defended another Arizona border agent facing charges in Tucson federal court” for shooting and killing a 16-year-old boy in 2012.
This is the culture of violence and racism at Border Patrol, and it remains dangerously out-of-control: the federal government has paid out over $60 million in settlements in incidents involving violent and corrupt border agents, including $9 million to the families of at least 20 people who died from “incidents including shooting, beating, use of Tasers and collisions with vehicles.”
Most recently, at least 70 agents have been under investigation for their participation in a racist and sexist Facebook group where members mocked the death of a migrant child under U.S. custody. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost was reportedly outraged and pledged full accountability, but it turned out she was once a member of the group, too. She’s still at her job.