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A Border Patrol Agent Called Migrants "Subhuman" And "Savages" Before Hitting One With A Truck

In texts to his fellow Border Patrol agents, Matthew Bowen frequently referred to undocumented immigrants in racist and violent terms.

Posted on May 21, 2019, at 1:35 p.m. ET

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

A US Border Patrol agent called migrants "subhuman" and "mindless murdering savages" in a text message before hitting one with a truck, according to court records.

"PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!...Disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire," agent Matthew Bowen said in a text to a fellow agent.

Bowen, 39, was charged last year with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and another for falsifying records in a federal investigation.

During the December 2017 incident, Bowen allegedly twice ran his truck into a 23-year-old Guatemalan man who officers said was hopping the border fence in Nogales, Arizona.

According to the court documents, Bowen "accelerated aggressively" when the man began running back toward the fence to avoid arrest. Bowen struck him with the vehicle twice, knocking him to the ground the second time and stopping "within inches" of running him over, the records state.

The man was treated at a hospital for his injuries and then sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for crossing the border illegally.

Bowen is also accused of lying about the incident in a memo to his chief patrol agent, in which he allegedly claimed he was unfamiliar with the braking and acceleration power of the truck and didn't know he hit him.

“In the future, I will adjust my tactics so that accidents like this do not occur," Bowen stated in the report.

Contradicting his own memo, the day after the incident Bowen texted a fellow agent that he gave the man "just a little push with a ford bumper," court records state.

In texts to other agents, Bowen referred to the Guatemalan man as a "guat" and a "tonk," a term for which there's debate over whether it's an official Border Patrol acronym for "Territory of Origin Not Known" or a racist slur for undocumented immigrants named for the sound made from hitting one with a flashlight.

"If I had to tackle the tonk I would still be doing memos and shit. I wonder how they expect us to apprehend wild ass runners who don’t want to be apprehended?" Bowen said in another text to a fellow agent a few days after the incident.

"Chasing a guat with an f150 and accidentally bumped him at like 7 mph. Guat was totally uninjured didn’t want to allegate or anything. But now it ll prob be an
investigation for 2 yrs," he said in another text.

Prosecutors previously pushed for the defendant's text messages to be admitted as evidence of his "great disdain" for undocumented immigrants.

But an attorney for Bowen argued against their release, stating in court documents that "the use of these terms is commonplace throughout the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, that it is part of the agency’s culture."

The attorney, Sean Chapman, clarified his statement in an email to BuzzFeed News, saying it was not his "intent to suggest that the use of racial slurs were part of agency culture."

"What I was trying to say is that the term 'Tonk' is commonly used by agents," Chapman said.

In many other texts released as part of the trial, Bowen referred to undocumented immigrants in racist and violent terms, calling them "shitbags," "fags," and "fucking beaners."

"Did you gas hiscorpse or just use regular peanut oil while tazing?? For a frying effect...Guats are best made crispy with an olive oil from their native pais," he texted one agent just two weeks after the truck incident.

Several of the texts were sent to agent Lonnie Swartz, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder for shooting an unarmed Mexican teenager through the Nogales border fence in 2012.

Bowen has been suspended indefinitely without pay since he was indicted, according to AZ Central. A Border Patrol spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bowen has pleaded not guilty to both charges. The trial is set to start Aug. 13.

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