BUFFALO, N.Y. – A Homeland Security (search) inspector who forcibly subdued a Chinese tourist he mistakenly believed was involved in marijuana smuggling was charged Friday with violating her civil rights, officials said.
The incident occurred late Wednesday at the U.S.-Canadian border in Niagara Falls (search), after Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian.
Officer Robert Rhodes (search), mistakenly believing the woman standing nearby was involved, allegedly sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her against a wall, kneed her in the head as she knelt on the ground and struck her head on the ground while holding her hair, according to witnesses.
The woman, whose name was not released, was treated at a hospital and released.
An agent who interviewed the victim through an interpreter several hours later noted in an affidavit that her eyes were nearly swollen shut, and she had bumps and bruises on her face and head.
A telephone number listed for Rhodes was disconnected Friday.
In a statement written by Rhodes as part of normal procedure, he said the Chinese woman and two other women ran when he asked them to come into the inspection station. He said he grabbed the nearest one and sprayed her with pepper spray when she swung her arms at him, then the woman scratched his arm and they both fell to the ground.
Rhodes could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of violating the woman's civil rights.