Border-crossing pedestrians coming into San Ysidro witnessed a border-security takedown on August 5, as U.S. agents corralled a man and blasted him with a gaseous substance in order to arrest him.
The incident occurred at around 6 a.m., at the peak of Monday’s pedestrian rush hour, as hundreds of would-be border-crossers backed up along the street into Mexican territory. This reporter had already entered the checkpoint facility and, still in an early-morning fog, was snapped into wakefulness upon hearing a muffled bellow — two, in fact, coming from the vicinity of the X-ray machine.
Normally, the machine, where border-crossers are obliged to run their backpacks, luggage, sacks, and packages through for inspection, has a line of a dozen or so people backed up, but the area next to it was devoid of people, apparently because of a confrontation that was escalating.
The subject soon to be subdued was a male with a light complexion, around 30 years of age, about 5´9˝, stocky build, black curly hair of medium length, full black beard of short length, wearing khaki-colored knee-length shorts, a black T-shirt, and a black baseball cap.
Surrounded by six or seven immigration agents in dark blue uniforms, the man appeared to be offering verbal resistance to his detainment.
It was at this point that an agent produced a deodorant-sized spray-can that contained a gaseous substance and blasted it into the subject’s face from a distance of two feet away. The man bellowed twice but remained standing, despite an agent’s command to “Get on the ground.” It was not evident whether or not the defiant man spoke English.
A white cloud of micro-particulate matter, most decidedly not pepper spray, was seen hovering about the subject’s head. The agent gave the man another facial blast while other agents forced him to the ground and onto his back. The subject was searched in this prone position and cuffed as one agent asked him, “Are you happy now?”
All the agents around the man appeared to have been affected by the spray; some were coughing as they brought the man to his feet and led him away.
Meanwhile, the lines of people were held up while the air cleared. As this reporter passed by the site of the incident, he, too, coughed from the residual particulate matter.
The substance used may have been a mild form of tear gas, of which this reporter has some past experience dating back to Berkeley, California, circa 1968. It is not known, by this reporter, why the subject was detained.