San Diego, Southern Border Region: A woman died Thursday morning following a crash between a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vessel and a panga boat carrying 20 migrants, including men and women. Questions remain as to how the crash occurred, why warning shots were fired, and what can be done to avoid similar situations which are life-threatening for passengers.
The panga boat was seen off the coast of Encinitas in San Diego, California, by CBP officials with the agency’s Office of Air and Marine. The CBP vessel approached the 26-foot-long boat and fired warning shots.
Ultimately the boats collided causing the boat to capsize resulting in the death of a woman on board.
“It is concerning to learn that CBP fired warning shots at a panga boat that later collided with the CBP vessel, where a woman died after she and 19 others fell into the ocean. Firing warning shots as a matter of practice increases vulnerability for those already in a precarious situation, especially if they have the perception of being shot at by federal agents.” Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego.
While it appears that firing warning shots is consistent with current use-of-force policy, and the expectation is that warning shots would dissuade people from evading being detained, the end result could be counterproductive. It is unclear if in this incident warning shots contributed to the fear and confusion that might have led to the collision.
“The use of body-worn cameras could have been useful in this incident, to be able to know basic facts that remain under investigation, such as how the vessels collided, and whether there might have been other actions taken to reduce the possibility of deadly consequences,” stated Vicki Gaubeca, Co-Chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and Director of the Regional Center for Border Rights at the ACLU of New Mexico.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) brings together community organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.