A New York state college student says Customs and Border Protection agents threw her to the ground and hit her with a stun gun after she was stopped earlier this month at a border checkpoint in Lisbon, New York.
The Water Town Daily Times reports that the incident took place May 7, two days before Jessica Cooke, 21, graduated from State University of New York at Canton with a degree in law enforcement leadership.
The graphic video above, which Cooke filmed during the stop, shows her questioning why she's being detained and asking for her ID back.
She gets the ID, and an agent tells her she was stopped because she was acting "nervous." One of two agents then tells Cooke she can leave whenever she likes, but her car will be held at the checkpoint until a K-9 unit can arrive and inspect the trunk.
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf argues that once Cooke showed her I.D. to the agents, the interaction should have ended there:
Cooke is an American citizen. The Border Patrol stopped her inside the United States. Although she was close to the Canadian border, she had not crossed into that country. And she produced a New York state driver’s license to confirm her identity. Even if one believes that the Border Patrol ought to operate internal checkpoints within the United States—which I do not—showing a valid I.D. ought to be enough to allow motorists to proceed.
Instead, the agent, who identifies himself in the video as a supervisor, tells Cooke to get in her car.
“All right, I’m going to tell you one more time and then I am going to move you over there, you got it?” he says.
Cooke then tells the agent that she will sue him if he touches her.
“Go for it; move over there now,” the agent says.
At that point, the camera is knocked to the ground and Cooke can be heard screaming. She told the Watertown Daily Times that one of the agents pushed her against her car and to the ground, and the other one used a stun gun on her lower back.
Cooke can be heard screaming "get it out of my back!" while the officers tell her to calm down.
In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, CBP said the incident is under investigation.
"The altercation followed a brief verbal exchange between the individual and the two agents regarding their intent to inspect the vehicle," the statement said. "CBP investigators have analyzed the scene of the incident, are taking statements and have reached out to the individuals involved. Based on preliminary information from the investigation, one of the two agents deployed an electronic control device during the altercation."
Cooke did not immediately return a request for comment. She told the Daily Times that she was put in a holding cell for several hours after the officers used the stun gun on her. No charges have been filed against her, though she said agents have told her they are considering whether to charge her with assaulting an officer.
Rick Su, an immigration law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, told North County Public Radio that stops like the one involving Cooke are a sign "that the federal government is, in some ways troublingly, using immigration checkpoints to enforce other areas of law enforcement, including the war on drugs."
Su continued, "It's an immigration checkpoint. But what it seems from the video is that the interest of the officials is not so much immigration at that point. It's something else, maybe a drug violation, or other ordinary crimes that they were investigating for. And this belief actually sets up a very dangerous dichotomy between the exception that's granted for immigration and the use of immigration checkpoints to do all sorts of other law enforcement priorities."
In the fiscal years 2010 through 2013, checkpoints inside the United States accounted for just 2 percent of the unauthorized immigrants captured by the Border Patrol, according to a 2014 New York Times story.
By contrast, in 2013, the checkpoints brought in 14 percent, or 342,624 pounds, of the 2.4 million pounds of marijuana confiscated by the CBP that year.
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