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No evidence of whips used by Border Patrol in Del Rio migrant incident, but 'unnecessary' force, report states

Four Border Patrol agents have been notified of their proposed discipline on this incident, said US Customs and Border Protection officials.

DEL RIO, Texas — Four Border Patrol agents were recommended for discipline after an aggressive confrontation near Del Rio, Texas last year that involved hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants.

How the border patrol agents will be punished is unknown, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said those involved have been notified of their proposed discipline.

"It's important that I'm clear right up front that the disciplinary process, in this case, is still ongoing. I have an obligation to preserve employees' due process and privacy rights. So I won't be discussing any proposed disciplinary actions today," said Chris Magnus, the commissioner of CBP.

The incident involving border patrol agents and Haitian immigrants garnered national attention last year after photos showed horseback-riding agents using horses and their horse reins to push back migrants at the river between Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Del Rio, Texas.

RELATED: Yes, photos of US Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing migrants are real

Credit: AP
U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, as authorities attempt to close the border to stop the flow of migrants. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

The incident led to CBP conducted an investigation into the actions of the agents involved. 

“We’re gonna learn from this incident and we’ll find a way to do better,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said during a news conference announcing the report. “Not everyone’s going to like all the findings but the investigation was comprehensive and fair.”

What did the investigation find?

In a 511-page report released Friday from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, officials said they found no evidence that Border Patrol agents struck migrants with their reins but said there was an “unnecessary use of force," CNN reported

Magnus said CPB's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) initiated an administrative investigation on Sept. 20, 2021, a day after the incident involving the horse patrol agents.

OPR immediately referred this investigation to the Texas Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General who declined to investigate the case and referred the matter back to CPB, Magnus said. 

RELATED: DHS to stop the use of Border Patrol units on horseback in Del Rio

On Sept. 29, 2021, OPR presented the matter to U.S. District Attorney's Office for review and consideration of any potential criminal charges. After an extensive review, the U.S. District Attorney's Office issued a decision not to prosecute the case.

OPR completed its final investigation and issued its final report to CPB leadership on April 11. 

The CPB disciplinary process began on April 19.

Magnus said the investigation was detailed and comprehensive and over 30 interviews were conducted with eyewitnesses, including members of the public and reporters who were on the ground. Investigators also talked to agents involved, border patrol leadership and other officials, Magnus said. 

Efforts were even made to talk to the Haitian migrants involved, but they could not be located, according to Magnus. But statements and court documents that some provided as part of lawsuits they filed against U.S. authorities were used. 

Investigation findings:

(according to CPB commissioner Chris Magnus)

  • Senior Border Patrol leadership, elected to deploy horse patrol units, did not have appropriate training, supervision and coordination. The horses involved in this incident were equipped with split reins, which can be twirled by the rider to guide the horses' movements. 
  • One agent involved in this incident reported twirling the split reins as a distancing tactic, but other members of the horse patrol program gave different, inconsistent answers about twirling or whether twirling a split rein for any purpose was included in the agency's training  
  • Horse patrol personnel also gave inconsistent responses on whether they were trained or qualified to engage in crowd control. 
  • Investigators determined that the agents involved in the Del Rio activity were not carrying whips. 
  • OPR found no evidence that border patrol agents involved in this incident struck any person with their reins
  • A determination was made that one agent acted in an unprofessional manner by yelling denigrating and offensive comments regarding migrants' national origin and gender. The same agent acted in an unsafe manner by forcing his horse to narrowly maneuver around a small child on a slanted concrete ramp, which puts the child's safety at risk, Magner reported
  • On multiple occasions, several agents used force or the threat of force to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande River, despite the fact that the migrants are already within the United States. Despite the actions taken by certain agents during this time, there was no evidence found any migrant was ultimately forced to return to Mexico for denied entry into the United States

Disciplinary actions are separate from Friday's findings and won't be announced until later. All four CBP officials have been on administrative duty since the investigation began, according to senior agency officials who briefed reporters before Friday's report was released.

You can read more findings in the report here. 

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