Sheriff: Border Patrol agent suspected of killing 4 women

Law enforcement officers gather near the scene where the body of a woman was found near Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Sheriff: Border Patrol agent suspected of killing 4 women

  • Investigators have “very strong evidence” that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women, who are believed to worked as prostitutes
  • The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence

HOUSTON: A US Border Patrol agent suspected of killing four women was arrested early Saturday after a fifth woman who had been abducted managed to escape from him and notify authorities, law enforcement officials said, describing the agent as a “serial killer.”
Juan David Ortiz, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, fled from state troopers and was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said at a news conference in the border city about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio.
Cuellar said investigators have “very strong evidence” that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women, who are believed to worked as prostitutes.
“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz.
In a statement, Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner for public affairs for US Customs and Border Protection, said his agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the US Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General are fully cooperating with all investigators.
“Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated,” Meehan said.
He referred questions about the investigation to authorities in Webb County and to the Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are also investigating.
A Texas Department of Public Safety sergeant didn’t return several messages seeking comment on Saturday. Authorities didn’t immediately disclose the victims’ names or nationalities. “The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence,” said Alaniz. But both Alaniz and Cuellar declined to discuss the evidence or say how the women were killed. Alaniz said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the killings. He said all of the women worked as prostitutes.
Cuellar said investigators believe Ortiz acted alone. Alaniz said his office plans to charge Ortiz with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
Authorities planned to provide another update on the investigation on Monday.


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 45 min 46 sec ago
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”