Just a month after a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Texas, confessed to being a serial killer, a new report reveals that his sector has some of the agency's highest numbers of employee misconduct.
The agency's most recent discipline overview summarizes incidents that occured in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. In 2016, Laredo's branch of the Office of Field Operations (OFO) had the highest number of disciplinary actions in the country. In 2017, it was the second highest. And in both 2016 and 2017, the Laredo branch of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) made the top three. In 2017 alone, 13 percent of the sector's OFO workforce—and 42 percent of the sector's USBP workforce—were involved in some kind of disciplinary incident. While the offenses are not specified for each sector, 254 agents nationwide were arrested for drug- and alcohol-related crimes, domestic misconduct, abuse of power, and other crimes in 2017.
Though the report has not been updated to reflect 2018's numbers, the Laredo sector has received unwanted attention this year for three major scandals.
In September, agent Juan David Ortiz, 35, confessed to killing at least four sex workers. The 10-year veteran was found out after a sex worker managed to escape him and alert a state trooper at a nearby gas station. Following his arrest and confession, local authorities categorized Ortiz as a serial murderer.
Another Laredo agent was charged with a separate homicide in April. Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles, 29, stands accused of killing the 27-year-old mother of his 1-year-old son—and of killing their son too.
In May, the Laredo sector was heavily scrutinized after an agent shot and killed Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a 19-year-old woman from Guatemala, on the border. The agency initially stated that migrants attacked an agent with "blunt objects," prompting him to fatally wound "one of the assailants." But an updated statement retracted that story. Now the 15-year veteran was responding to a report of "illegal activity" when he came across a group that he suspected was in the country without documentation. In this version of the story, he "ordered them to get on the ground" and then fired after they "ignored his verbal commands and instead rushed him."
Bad as Laredo may be, misconduct is a department-wide problem—and the Border Patrol's parent department, Homeland Security, is slow to take action against agents accused of abuse. Of the 84 complaints of coerced sexual contact between agents and immigrants from January 2010 to July 2016, the department's Office of Inspector General has opened only seven investigations. And those investigations have not led to any documented charges.