Hit-and-runs happen more than we prefer to hear about. On the other hand, hit-and-runs allegedly involving an agent driving a Border Patrol vehicle hitting someone and driving away may be a first. Strangely enough, that seems to be what happened after an unnerving video was posted on Thursday, showing what appears to be a Border Patrol vehicle striking a Native American man, reports the New York Times.
The alleged incident occurred Thursday on Tohono O’odham Nation land, which is about 60 miles southwest of Tucson and near the Topowa village of Topo. The reservation lies on the United States/Mexico border in Arizona.
Tensions flared between federal authorities in Arizona and Tohono O’odham Nation after the video was posted, and the police and the tribe opened up an investigation afterwards.
The Border Patrol later stated that they were cooperating with the investigations, which also includes the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the FBI. On Friday, the Border Patrol wouldn’t say if they were conducting an internal investigation.
The hit-and-run victim, Paulo Remes, was a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Tohono O’odham means Desert People, and its members primarily reside in the Mexican state of Sonora and Arizona.
The video quickly went viral after it was posted, and it sparked a good deal of outrage. The Indivisible Tohono organization, whose focus is on impacts of border policies, posted footage of the Border Patrol agent striking the Native American with the vehicle on social media.
The Tohono O’odham Nation said they thought the footage of the hit-and-run was “disturbing.” They said that safety and the well-being of everyone should be the nation’s top priority.
Paolo Rhemes was able to record the occurrence of when he was struck by the Border Patrol vehicle on his phone. Remes is overheard telling someone on the video, “They ran me over, bro.” He later told the Arizona Daily Star that he was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for minor bruising. On Friday, Remes said that he was doing fine but was a little sore.
The Native American man said that it all started when he went outside to search for a speaker to listen to music. That’s when he spotted the Border Patrol SUV nearby and decided to approach the dirt road close to his home.
“I ran into the dirt road in front of my house, because I know they’ll try and hit me,” Rhemes told the press, adding that he was speaking on a landline to a cousin. “I think he saw me on the landline and didn’t think I was recording.”
Remes said the vehicle didn’t stop after hitting him and knocking him to the ground. He said that the agent didn’t check to see if he was all right after being struck, either. All the agent did was turn on his sirens and speed away, he stated.
Although Border Patrol agents usually turn on their vehicle’s sirens to show they are alerting paramedics, Remes thought the driver did it for other reasons.
“What I think he did was turn on the sirens to get away from the scene of the crime.”