A Calexico doctor says he was beaten and humiliated after his arrest Sunday by a Border Patrol agent who now calls the incident a “misunderstanding.”
Jose A. Cisneros said the agent handcuffed him, then kicked him in the head and torso and cursed him while another agent watched. According to a Border Patrol report of the incident, Cisneros, who walks with a limp because of a childhood bout with polio, was injured when he resisted arrest and attempted to flee on foot from two Border Patrol agents.
The incident took place Sunday afternoon in the desert, 10 miles east of Calexico, while Cisneros was target shooting with a newly purchased handgun.
Cisneros, 33, said he never learned the name of the agent who charged him with assault and administered the beating. But Border Patrol officials in El Centro identified Kevin Jarvis as the agent who accused Cisneros of firing a pistol at him.
Charges against Cisneros were dropped Monday after an FBI investigation determined that there was insufficient evidence against him.
Border Patrol Deputy Chief Tony Casares denied having any knowledge of the beating but he said that FBI agents who investigated the case told him that Cisneros suffered “some lacerations” during the arrest.
“The only thing we know is that when this incident took place, shots were fired in agent Jarvis’ direction,” Casares said. “We had to chase him (Cisneros) in a vehicle and a struggle ensued while he was being taken into custody. I heard that he was a doctor working in Mexicali. He didn’t want to be arrested and handcuffed . . . I understand that he tried to leave the area on foot.”
Jarvis, who declined to discuss the incident in detail, called Cisneros’ arrest a “misunderstanding” that “turned out to be nothing.” He referred all further questions to Casares.
Cisneros, a U.S. citizen who graduated from a medical school in Guadalajara and practices across the border in Mexicali, tells a different and more violent version of the incident. He said Jarvis and another agent handcuffed him and threw him to the ground, where Jarvis proceeded to kick him repeatedly in the face, chest and arms.
According to Cisneros, on the day of the incident he had driven to a deep gully in the desert that is commonly used as a shooting range by local residents.
“I had fired four times at a bottle when I heard a voice from the other side yell, ‘Hey! . . . Where do you think you’re shooting!’ I apologized and he told me to stop shooting and to get out of there,” Cisneros said.
Jarvis said that he had stopped a group of aliens when Cisneros began target practice.
“At first I thought he was shooting at me. He didn’t know we were down there and he was shooting away. He was arrested but later released due to lack of intent. It turned out to be nothing,” said Jarvis.
Cisneros said he could not see the person yelling at him, but when he got in his car and drove out of the area he saw a four-wheel drive vehicle with Border Patrol markings racing in his direction from the opposite side of the gully. Cisneros said he continued on the dirt road, heading toward the highway. Upon reaching the highway, he found the road blocked by a Border Patrol car.
“The agent in the car ordered me to get both hands in the air and then the other agent (Jarvis) arrived. They handcuffed me and threw me on the ground. The first thing that (Jarvis) asked was, ‘Where’s the gun, you . . . ,’ and he kicked me several times in the face.
“I told them they couldn’t treat me like that because I was an American citizen and a doctor. His response was: ‘I should’ve shot you. . . .’ ” Cisneros said Jarvis repeatedly cursed him and derided his practice of medicine in Mexico.
“I was pretty scared by that time and I just answered, ‘Yes, sir,’ ” said Cisneros.
After a while, Imperial County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and two deputies picked him up and led him to an unmarked car. By that time, he was bleeding heavily from cuts on his left cheek, said Cisneros.
“As they led me to the police car, I looked at all the police officers and they looked ashamed. They weren’t proud of what had happened, and even the guy who beat me looked like he had repented,” said Cisneros.
In an interview at his lawyer’s San Diego home, Cisneros showed a Times reporter several bruises and lacerations he said resulted from the beating.
County Jail records show that Cisneros was detained by two sheriff’s deputies but the arresting officer is listed as FBI agent David Gomez. Casares said that it was Gomez who advised him about Cisneros’ lacerations. Cisneros was booked about 8 p.m. Sunday and jail records indicate that Gomez signed for his release the following afternoon.
FBI agent Bob Watkins, who helped investigate the incident, said that Cisneros “alleged that he was treated harshly” by Jarvis. But aside from the laceration on Cisneros’ face that was bleeding at the time of his arrest, Watkins said, there was no evidence that Cisneros had been beaten.
“I can see his objection to being handcuffed and put on the ground. He might not be used to being treated like a criminal, because most doctors aren’t criminals. But you have to remember that a gun was involved and they (Border Patrol) treated it as if Jarvis had been shot upon . . . But as we conducted the investigation, we determined there was no malice on (Cisneros’) part,” said Watkins.
During his interview with The Times, Casares said it was the first time he had heard any allegations about a beating. He said that he would encourage Cisneros to file a report about the incident with the Border Patrol’s internal affairs unit.
“We’ve got two different versions of this incident. If it (the beating) happened, my superiors and I don’t condone it. But until we talk to Mr. Cisneros we can’t be sure of what happened out there.
“We frequently receive all sorts of allegations. Occasionally, some of them prove to be true and some of them aren’t true. We’re not lily white. No police agency is. I’d like to think that we are, and maybe 20 years ago when I began working here we were. But everything changes,” said Casares.
Cisneros said he met with National City attorney Ray Buendia Wednesday to discuss the possibility of legal action against the Border Patrol.