CHULA VISTA, California – The family of a 32-year-old mother of five shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent as he rode on her car's hood in suburban San Diego has filed a wrongful death claim against the agency, saying the agent had a long history of misconduct in a previous law enforcement job and should not have been on the street.
Attorney Eugene Iredale filed the claim Friday with the Border Patrol on behalf of Valeria "Munique" Tachiquin Alvarado and provided a copy to The Associated Press.
The documents, a required precursor for a lawsuit, say the agent, 34-year-old Justin Tackett, was suspended four times for misconduct including crashing a patrol car and violating suspects' rights in the nearly four years that he worked as an Imperial County sheriff's deputy. Tackett had been given a notice that he'd be fired just before he quit the job in 2003, the documents say.
In one 2002 probation case, according to the claim, Tackett "willfully disobeyed a direct order" and "provided false and misleading information during the investigation."
In a different incident in 2001, Tackett was called to assist police in Brawley with an incident and told to wait for them at the scene but instead rousted the suspect himself, engaged him in an altercation and cuffed him without a warrant.
The Border Patrol, which has not released Tackett's name or answered questions about him, declined comment, and a phone listing for Tackett or an attorney representing him could not be found.
But in a wrongful termination suit he filed in 2004, Tackett claimed he was the victim of retaliation for pursuing cases against supervisors' friends and of racial discrimination because he was white.
On Sept. 28, authorities say Alvarado left an apartment in Chula Vista where border agents were serving a warrant against someone else, and say she deliberately ran into Tackett, who shot her out of fear for his life after being forced to ride on the hood for several hundred yards (meters) as he asked her to stop.
Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the agents' union, said he was confident Tackett did the right thing in the incident.
"If the agent says his life was threatened and he needed to use deadly force, we're going to back him and accept his statement at face value," Moran told the newspaper U-T San Diego, which first reported the Alvarado family claim.
The FBI and Chula Vista police are investigating the incident.