Trump said military should shoot rock-throwing migrants. Officials disagree.

Rock-throwing by migrants has not been fatal to border agents, and it is against Border Patrol and military ...

Posted: Nov 4, 2018 12:00 AM
Updated: Nov 4, 2018 12:01 AM

Rock-throwing by migrants has not been fatal to border agents, and it is against Border Patrol and military policy to shoot rock throwers in most circumstances, officials said Friday, in response to a suggestion by President Donald Trump to treat them as if they carried firearms.

Trump said Thursday that US troops -- being deployed along the Mexican border in advance of midterm elections next week -- should treat rocks thrown by migrants as firearms attacks.

Donald Trump

Political Figures - US

International relations and national security

Immigration, citizenship and displacement

Immigration

Armed forces

Border control

Firearms

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

International relations

Military

National security

Politics

Territorial and national borders

US federal government

Weapons and arms

White House

Continents and regions

North America

The Americas

United States

"Consider it a rifle," he said. "When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military police, consider it a rifle."

Friday, Trump tried to walk back those comments, telling reporters that if agents or soldiers "are going to be hit in the face with rocks, we're going to arrest those people. That doesn't mean shoot them."

Trump was referring to a violent clash at the Mexico-Guatemala border last week that left one Honduran migrant dead and several other migrants and Mexican police officers with minor injuries.

Rock-throwing attacks do happen each year along the US-Mexico border. But a look at the history of these attacks shows they represent little threat to law enforcement. US border forces have consciously deescalated their use of force in response. And both the former Customs and Border Protection commissioner who developed that policy and current military leaders dismissed the idea this week that troops would shoot at people throwing rocks.

There are no documented Border Patrol deaths for at least the past 20 years due to a strike by a rock, according to agency records.

Customs and Border Protection doesn't make public what percentage of assaults against agents involve rocks. But along the US-Mexico border, rock attacks have been deadly for only the rock throwers.

Since 2010, there have been nine incidents in which agents shot and killed alleged rock throwers (eight attacks as of February 15, 2014; one additional attack later that month). No Border Patrol killings of rock throwers have been recorded since May 2014, when Customs and Border Protection changed its rules on how and when agents are allowed to use deadly force.

The 2014 policy, still in place, requires agents having rocks thrown at them to seek cover or back away "out of the immediate area of danger" when possible. They are not supposed to shoot at rock throwers unless they have a "reasonable belief" that there's an "imminent danger of serious physical injury or death."

Since 2014, agents also have been required to be trained in and carry less lethal weapons, such as pepper-ball launchers. Before that, such weapons were optional.

Defense officials have said the troops at the border are there to support civil authorities and are not expected to come into direct contact with migrants. If troops do have any "incidental interactions" with border crossers, they will follow the same rules as Border Patrol agents, according to Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who oversees the US Northern Command. Those rules indicate agents should avoid the use of deadly force when there are other options.

Gil Kerlikowske, the CBP commissioner who oversaw the change in use-of-force policies, told CNN in an interview Friday that he doesn't see any need to deploy additional troops along the border, as Trump proposed this week.

"These are active-duty war fighters; this isn't part of their training," Kerlikowske said. "The Border Patrol is clearly capable of handling this small number of people. Agents have expertise in differentiating someone seeking asylum from an MS-13 gang member; they know the tattoos, they know the right question to ask."

Kerlikowske also said that rules minimizing use of deadly force have helped agents. "The use of deadly force over the last three years is down 70%; that means fewer investigations, fewer lawsuits, and less toll and strain on agents," he said.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, speaking at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday morning, declined to speak about the military's rules of engagement but said that "our rules of engagement are transparent and clear and are posted online."

Nielsen said assaults against agents on the border continue to rise, and that "We've over 800 instances last year where they were attacked by those coming across the border."

As CNN reported in May, the recent rise in reported assaults is largely an artifact of CBP changing its method of counting assaults to one that inflates its numbers.

A defense official told CNN Friday that the Pentagon rejected a request from Homeland Security to have active-duty troops perform emergency law-enforcement duties along the border. Officials felt that active duty troops don't currently have the authority to conduct that type of mission without being granted additional authority by the President. The department did sign off on providing DHS with air and logistics support, medical personnel and engineers.

According to US defense officials, the number of active-duty troops either already deployed or identified for deployment to the border has grown to more than 8,000, in addition to more than 2,000 National Guard troops already on the border.

Terre Haute
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 73°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Rockville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Casey
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 74°
Brazil
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Marshall
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
July Heat Continues
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 144013

Reported Deaths: 6951
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook909114581
Lake9752418
DuPage9083472
Kane7733271
Will6744320
Winnebago304695
McHenry206197
St. Clair1906136
Kankakee128565
Kendall96320
Madison94769
Rock Island94729
Champaign88012
Boone59521
DeKalb55818
Peoria49928
Sangamon43132
Jackson33219
Randolph2877
Stephenson2745
McLean26113
Ogle2614
Clinton23717
Macon23122
LaSalle21917
Union19119
Whiteside19115
Coles17017
Grundy1674
Iroquois1575
Warren1380
Tazewell1378
Knox1320
Cass1302
Morgan1283
Monroe12713
Williamson1204
Jefferson10717
McDonough10115
Lee972
Adams931
Henry881
Pulaski760
Marion660
Vermilion662
Perry541
Douglas520
Macoupin523
Unassigned500
Jasper467
Livingston452
Jo Daviess441
Montgomery441
Christian434
Jersey351
Ford331
Woodford332
Bureau292
Menard250
Fayette233
Alexander220
Franklin220
Mason220
Wabash220
Carroll212
Johnson200
Mercer200
Piatt200
Washington200
Hancock191
Crawford180
Moultrie180
Shelby181
Fulton150
Logan150
Clark140
Wayne141
Bond131
Massac130
Schuyler130
Cumberland120
Effingham121
Brown100
Edgar100
Greene90
Saline90
Henderson80
Marshall80
Lawrence70
De Witt60
Hamilton50
White50
Richland40
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Pike20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 45952

Reported Deaths: 2650
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11387679
Lake4872240
Elkhart308543
Allen2677114
St. Joseph184965
Cass16369
Hamilton1484100
Hendricks136699
Johnson1235118
Porter68537
Madison64363
Tippecanoe6408
Clark62244
Bartholomew57844
Howard54356
LaPorte53925
Kosciusko4952
LaGrange4596
Jackson4553
Noble44728
Vanderburgh4306
Hancock42935
Delaware42648
Boone42242
Shelby41625
Marshall4123
Floyd36344
Morgan32031
Montgomery28720
Grant28526
Clinton2792
Dubois2606
White25810
Monroe25628
Decatur24632
Henry23515
Lawrence23124
Vigo2248
Harrison20822
Dearborn20422
Warrick20129
Greene18431
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1547
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1286
Franklin1248
Steuben1232
Perry1209
Ripley1127
Carroll1092
Jasper1092
Wabash1072
Fayette967
Newton9510
Whitley814
Randolph764
Starke733
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson651
Washington641
Pulaski631
Knox620
Clay594
Rush573
Benton480
Adams451
Owen451
Gibson442
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey350
Spencer311
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland250
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0194