Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen is accused of targeting an immigrant man with his truck. Text messages recovered from his phone show he also frequently referred to immigrants using racist terms.
In December of 2017, Bowen, who is 39, allegedly twice rammed his Ford F-150 truck into 23-year-old Antolin Lopez Aguilar, an undocumented man who was running away from him at the border near Nogales, Arizona. Aguilar was apparently fleeing toward a parking lot where several semi-trailers were parked.
Three Border Patrol agents arrived at the lot minutes later. One agent got out of his truck and spotted Lopez hiding under a semitrailer. The agent told him to come out and surrender, but Lopez ran back toward the port of entry.
As Lopez ran away, Bowen quickly turned his truck and “accelerated aggressively into a position behind the running Lopez Aguilar — this maneuver put the front grille of the (truck) directly behind Lopez Aguilar,” the special agent wrote.
As Lopez ran, Bowen “followed closely behind him, striking Lopez Aguilar twice” with the front of the truck.
While he told his superiors that hitting the man was an accident, the text messages suggest that he may have meant to do it, downplaying it as “just a little push with a ford bumper.”
“If I had to tackle the tonk I would still be doing memos and shit. I wonder how they expect us to apprehend wild ass runners who don’t want to be apprehended?” Bowen texted to a fellow officer.
The word “tonk” is, according to Bowen’s attorney, commonplace among Border Patrol agents. According to AZCentral, “tonk” is either an acronym for “temporarily outside native country,” or the sound a flashlight makes when it’s being used to beat someone on the back of the head.
“The use of these terms is commonplace throughout the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector,” said Sean Chapman, who is Bowen’s attorney, adding that they were “part of the agency’s culture.”
Other texts Bowen sent described immigrants as “disgusting subhuman s— unworthy of being kindling for a fire,” and also referred to undocumented men and women as “shitbags,” “fags,” and “fucking beaners.”
In one text to a fellow agent, Bowen wrote “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!”
Currently, Bowen is facing two charges. One is deprivation of rights under color of law, which is punishable by a life sentence in prison, or even the death penalty. Bowen is also accused of falsifying records in a federal investigation. His trial is scheduled for August.