WASHINGTON — A Border Patrol official who was removed from his position in June is accusing the agency of covering up “highly suspect” deaths in clashes along the southern border.
James F. Tomsheck tells the Center for Investigative Reporting that at least seven deaths along the border since 2010 were “highly suspect,” according to a story by the non-profit news organization based in California.
“In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” Tomsheck told the news organization.
Tomsheck was removed as head of the internal affairs office for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in June. He is still with the agency, working as executive director for national programs, the story said. He has filed a whistleblower complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel.
Tomsheck did not return emails or phone messages seeking comment Monday. The Center for Investigative Reporting said Tomsheck gave the news organization a “sweeping and unauthorized” interview.
Immigration advocates have raised concerns about border agents’ use of deadly force against people who throw rocks at them along the Mexican border. When Customs and Border Protection announced in June that Tomsheck was being replaced as head of internal affairs, his departure was greeted as a positive step by those same advocates.
Tomsheck says that border politics and internal policy hampered his efforts to investigate shootings.
Mark Morgan, FBI deputy assistant director for inspections, has been appointed interim head of the internal affairs office for Customs and Border Protection.
A spokesman for the agency said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske asked the FBI for a senior executive to head the office of internal affairs, “as part of CBP’s commitment to integrity, transparency, and accountability.”
The spokesman, Christopher O’Neil, said Morgan’s appointment “strengthens our internal review capacity.”
“During the past three months, Commissioner Kerlikowske has directed the public release of CBP’s use of force policy, an ongoing thorough review of all existing use of force incidents, and increased training, tactics and equipment for Border Patrol agents in the field,” O’Neill said.
The Border Patrol had more than 21,000 agents last year and a budget of $3.5 billion, according to the agency’s website.