Border Patrol Agent Draws Gun on Boy Scout—Over a Photograph (Updated)


Boy Scout
Boy Scouts of America

A group of Boy Scouts from Central Iowa received a lesson they won't forget in federal manners at a border crossing from Canada into Alaska. According to the scoutmaster, a casual snapshot of a Border Patrol agent got the group of about two dozen scouts and volunteers detained, searched—and one of them ultimately held at gunpoint.

According to Marcus McIntosh of Iowa's KCCI:

Boy Scout Troop 111 Leader Jim Fox spelled out what happened to him and the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111 as four van-loads of Scouts and adult volunteers tried to drive from Canada into Alaska.

Fox said one of the Scouts took a picture of a border official, which spurred agents to detain everyone in that van and search them and their belongings.

"The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison," Fox said.

Fox said he was told it is a federal offense to take a picture of a federal agent.

Not wanting things to escalate, Fox said he did not complain.

Another of the Scouts was taking luggage from the top of a van to be searched when something startling happened.

"He hears a snap of a holster, turns around, and here's this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man's head," Fox explained.

Charles Vonderheid with the Mid-Iowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America is getting a lot of grief for referring to the incident as a "lesson in civics." But he told me that he made the comment after getting blindsided by reporters before learning any details about the encounter. He assured me, though, that he and the Boy Scouts are concerned about scouts' safety and support them. He also said that Troop 111's Jim Fox, who led the group that endured the gauntlet at the border, is "a trusted scoutmaster who cares about his boys."

I've been unable to reach Fox, and I'll update once I hear from him and Customs and Border Protection (see below).

For the record, federal rules specifically permit photographing federal facilities, at least for "news, advertising, or commercial purposes." There don't seem to be any special limits on just-because snapshots.

Except where security regulations, rules, orders, or directives apply or a Federal court order or rule prohibits it, persons entering in or on Federal property may take photographs of—

(a) Space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned;

(b) Space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned; and

(c) Building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums for news purposes.

The American Civil Liberties Union offers guidance, too, including the photography of federal agents:

Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.

But, adds the ACLU, "there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply."

Relatively isolated border crossings in Alaska might be the sort of place where you'd run into that pattern.

Update: Customs and Border Protection responds to inquiries with a statement:

CBP takes any allegations of wrongdoing very seriously. CBP's review of this group's inspection, including video footage review, indicates that our officer did not un-holster or handle his weapon as stated in the allegation. The review revealed nothing out of the ordinary. We have reached out to the Boy Scout troop for additional information in reference to the allegation. The video footage has been referred to CBP Internal Affairs for further review.

Whatever else this means (and believe as much of it as you like), clearly border officials have no objection to photographing the public.

Update 2: Allegations that a CBP official pulled a gun on the Boy Scouts are "unsubstantiated" insists the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. However, CBP did order a scout to delete a photograph of the port of entry, cuz the fact that the U.S. shares a border with Canada is super-secret. And they tossed the kid's luggage after finding a photo of a marijuana bud on his phone. They also forced the rest of the scouts to remain in their vehicles during the fruitless search for that bud under threat of detention. So all is well, say the feds.

Below, more fun with the Border Patrol, from Reason TV.

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  1. So do they still have the Boy Scouts detained? Seems like this would be something that could rally public opinion.

    1. Yeah, but since the Boy Scouts still don’t allow gay scoutmasters, this can be spun as another courageously blow for LGBTQ rights by the Obama administration.

  2. I would imagine the Scouts could contract with Maddox for the badge design.

  3. Fox said he was told it is a federal offense to take a picture of a federal agent.

    Apparently Fox was not told it is a federal offense for a federal agent to falsely claim that it is a federal offense to take a picture of a federal agent.

  4. How psychopathic–how pathetic–do you have to be to feel the need to go all AUTHORITAH on some kids? And how much worse must you be to pull a fucking gun on one?

    The very fact that these fucking goons couldn’t figure that out tells you what degree of animal we have staffing the border/LEOs.

    1. Everything is a threat. That’s how their trained. They must react with potential deadly force to anything that startles them. Because everything is a threat. Everything. That’s what officer safety means.

      1. How come the ones on the southern border don’t do that? What’s a bigger threat-an illegal teen who admits to being in a gang-or a kid with his Boy Scout troop? When did common sense become an antiquated idea?

        1. thats a funny question. We are talking about the government here so common sense left over 200 years ago.

    2. Easy, Epi. They’re probably just a bit on edge after that domestic terrorism thing Jesse reported on.

    3. Look, this was a paramilitary youth training group attempting to enter the United States. That brave CBP officer had no way of knowing if that “scout” was going to pull out an AK-47 and kill every loyal American there.

      Send them to jail and let them earn their merit badge in shank construction!

      1. Well, the kids could claim to be either illegal or Muslim-that should get them a pass.

    4. Hey, he had to flex his authority because some of those scouts were much more physically imposing than the BP agent. Can’t let them get all cocky.

      If you don’t stomp on them when they snigger at your chicken wing arms, the next thing you know they are making fun of the fact that their mustaches are coming in better than yours.

      It is bad enough you have to take shit from the fisherman and lumberjacks in the bar at night! You do not also have to take shit off some fucking asshole kids from Iowa. IOWA!

      1. Men who actually WORK FOR A LIVING don’t have much respect for lame-asses that hang around and harass people. I’m sure those BP jerkoffs will be hearing about this for years.

    5. Boy Scouts are terrorists because they don’t support teh GAY RIGHTZ!!!

    6. Look, they’re all traumatized by their stint on the southern border. They see a minor crossing and they just start having flashbacks.

  5. And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…

    I’m sure the agent has been fired and both he and his department is being sued.

    1. where at least I know I’m free…




    2. Sad to say-wishful thinking. Now, had the kids been illegal…

  6. Boy, when even mid Iowa boy scouts are in trouble with the law, you know something is wrong.

    Seriously, though I’d like to see the ACLU (or Reason) spend some time and effort and organize an annual “take a picture of your government” day. It would educate citizens and border guards alike.

    1. Just make sure nobody says anything about photo bombing.

      1. BOMB!!! BOMB!!! AAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

    2. The ACLU can organize it and then Reason can let us know how it went over with the millenials.

      1. What’s that got to do with gay rights?

      2. Pay Rupe to help.

      3. Reason is too busy with stories about gay rights and untrialed HIV “cure” articles…no time for strategic thinking.

    3. I spent some time in Egypt in the late 90’s. The US state department at the time advised Americans to avoid photographing bridges, government buildings, police officers, or “critical infrastructure”. or else risk a visit from the secret police. I wonder if other countries warn their citizens about photographing government facilities here. Civics lesson indeed,

    4. Returning from Europe last Sunday I went through Customs and Immigration in Detroit. There are prominent signs saying ‘no photographs’ (also no cell phones); it’s a violation of federal law, or something.
      I wonder now…

  7. And over on the thread about the cop and the kid wandering away from mom, a newb wonders why Reasonoids find it odd when a cop-being acts like a human being.


    And this is why I don’t play in a Canadian pipe band any more. 30 years was enough – crossing the border and being threatened with confiscation of my pipes because they have ivory on them….fuck you assholes. Thanks for ruining it for my band, who could use my talents judging from the recent results….:P)

    1. Aren’t bagpipes a weapon of mass destruction?

  8. Good reporting from that local station, apparently not asking the border patrol for comment.

    1. You think they want to have guns drawn on them?

    2. I know the local Iowa CBS affiliate news said they asked for comment and were promised one tomorrow (now today).

  9. Here’s a quote (from another article) from the troop’s scoutmaster:

    “Charles Vonderheid with the Mid-Iowa Council Boy Scouts of America said Troop 11 learned a valuable lesson. ‘We want to make sure they follow the rules. A Scout is a good citizen. It would be a great lesson in civics for that young man and that troop,’ he said.”

    1. Well, he DID learn a civics lesson. What’s the problem?

    2. Requirement 2.c for the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge: “Tour a federal facility. Explain to your counselor what you saw there and what you learned about its function in the local community and how it serves this nation.”

  10. The comments and the KCCI are reassuring that some Americans believe that it isn’t a crime to not bend a knee to the king’s men.

    BTW Sarcasmic thanks for that phrase.

  11. 2Chili wins at alt text

  12. Are these the same border patrol that just got rolled over by eleventy billion honduran toddlers?

    No? This is the NORTHERN border? For real? What are these guys excuses for being trigger happy?

    1. It’s the border with Canuckistan? 🙂

  13. The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison

    Dude apparently doesn’t like his picture taken, and also, is a lying asshole.

  14. This wouldn’t happen if the USA would just annex the whole world.

    That aside, was there any explanation of the gun to the head? No indication that that Scout was the one who’d taken a picture. If the officer asked for the baggage and the target was giving it to him, what was it? Furtive movement?

  15. Charles Vonderheid with the Mid-Iowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America is getting a lot of grief for referring to the incident as a “lesson in civics.”

    Why is he getting grief? He absolutely got a lesson in civics in the former America. PICK UP THAT CAN.

    1. Gordon Freeman says no. With his crowbar.

  16. God willing some of those Scouts take the same path I did and wind up not being statist.

  17. This angers me WAY TO MUCH to comment rationally. This son of a needs to be fired and immediately prosecuted for a terrorist act on minors.

  18. They were going to Bissett, northeast of Winnipeg, where the Northern Tier base is located. My older son and I made the trip in 2009, and my wife and younger son are going in less than a week.

    The Canadians were fine, but the American agents actually brought a dog over to sniff our vans- which were full of Boy Scouts…ridiculous…

    If they treat my wife or son like that, especially pointing a gun at them, I will raise hell. I will give those bastards a civics lesson.

  19. Since there was no threat to the agent, why is pulling a gun on a child not an “excessive use of force”?

    Since there was no crime or reason to suspect a crime had been committed, why is confiscating the camera not theft?

  20. I just can’t wait till TSA gets guns.

    1. That would be like letting McDonald’s employees use saute pans and chef knives.

  21. Thankfully, none of the scouts had purported untaxed cigarettes on their possession.

  22. Sounds like this agent should be working on the southern border.

      1. No, but as a sorter at the local sewage treatment plant.

  23. Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

  24. Here is another example of how this country is slowly becoming a police state. “We The people” do not have standing anymore. We allowed legislation like the Patriot act to pass because of the times and the name, but it is far from patriotic, it has done more to trample the cause of freedom then anything in the last 60 years. Our democracy is dying and we are doing nothing.

  25. To many making jokes, they are either very uninformed or do not seem to believe it is their freedoms that are being attached. Maybe to immature to realize how this can affect them and their futures.

  26. Let me see if I understand. A Border Patrol Agent detains a group of BOY SCOUTS because one innocently took a photograph of him? And then when a BOY SCOUT was complying with the Agent’s command to get the luggage down from the top of the van to be searched, the Agent draws his loaded weapon and points it at the BOY SCOUT’S head? Well, if any of my fellow Americans were unconvinced that law enforcement in this country has gone completely out of control, this incident should convert the unbelievers.

    By the way members of the media, instead of asking the Border Patrol for a comment (which they won’t provide or, if they do, it will be a whitewash), how about asking some of our elected officials what they think of this. Mr. Elected Official, Sir, is this how you want law enforcement to treat American citizens?

    1. I’d venture to say our ‘elected officials’ could care less. There is more than enough cases of blatant stupidity displayed by these agencies that point to deliberate indifference.

    2. How do you know that the Scout “innocently took a photograph” of the Border Patrol officer? Were you there? Did you see whether the Scout was acting in ways consistent with a terrorist “dry run”? No. Then STFU and try to consider that maybe the only reason you sleep peaceably in your bed at night is that rough Border Patrolers stand ready to do violence against Boy Scouts on your behalf.

      1. ” rough Border Patrolers stand ready to do violence against Boy Scouts on your behalf.”
        Terrible name for a porn video.

  27. Disgusting is the only words that come to mind. What a pathetic group.

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