Border Agent Allegedly Hit Guatemalan Man With Car, Calls Migrants ‘Subhuman’ And ‘Savages’

A U.S. Border Patrol agent takes Central American immigrants into custody after they crossed the U.S. Mexico border on February 01, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.
John Moore / Getty Images

A U.S. Border Patrol accused of running his truck into a Guatemalan migrant allegedly called the people that he apprehended “subhuman s**t” and “savages.” According to AZ Central, Agent Matthew Bowen hit a man with his patrol vehicle in December 2017, and then lied about the incident taking place.

Bowen reportedly saw a man attempting to run away from agents in Nogales. He used his car to strike the migrant two times, knocking him to the ground on the second time. Bowen then exited the vehicle, which was reported to have come within inches of running over the man, and handcuffed him.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Bowen’s text messages were reviewed in court. Those documents show that Bowen called the migrants that he apprehended “disgusting subhuman sh** unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” He also called them “savages” and said, “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”

Bowen’s trial begins in August, and prosecutors hope to show that the agent has “disdain” for the people that he is charged with apprehending. Federal prosecutors Lori Price and Monica Ryan are asking to use the text messages, which were sent between Bowen and other border agents, as evidence of Bowen’s mindset. They argue that his language could be taken as racist or offensive.

The prosecutors argue that the texts will also help a jury determine if Bowen intentionally used excessive force in order to apprehend the Guatemalan man.

But Sean Chapman, Bowen’s lawyer, says that the agent’s texts show language that is commonplace among border patrol agents. Certain terms used by Bowen, Chapman says, are “commonplace throughout the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, that it is part of the agency’s culture, and therefore says nothing about Mr. Bowen’s mind-set.”

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In another text, Bowen responds to an unidentified agent that “Guats are best made crispy with an olive oil from their native pais.” He also uses the derogatory term “tonks” to refer to migrants who are attempting to cross the border.

The texts also reveal that Bowen texted with Lonnie Ray Swartz, a border agent who was accused of shooting through a border fence in Nogales and killing a 16-year-old who had thrown rocks at the border patrol agents. Bowen texted Swartz to call the rock throwing migrants “mindless… savages.”

Bowen has worked for border patrol for 10 years. He was indicted in May by a grand jury for depriving the Guatemalan man of his civil rights under color of law and also for falsifying records.