A U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed a “suspected illegal border crosser” in the head while on patrol west of Sumas Thursday, March 19, the federal agency said.
The dead man, whose identity has not been released, assaulted the border agent in a confrontation on Kneuman Road, according to a press release.
A multi-agency team led by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office will investigate the shooting, Sheriff Bill Elfo said, but few other details were made available.
A Sumas officer on police radio first reported shots fired around 2:45 p.m. on Kneuman Road, an east-west road less than 1,000 feet from the U.S.-Canada border. He requested immediate backup.
Multiple radio dispatches said the man suffered a gunshot wound to the head. The agent had been hit by pepper spray but wasn’t seriously hurt, according to police radio traffic.
Authorities blocked the entire 3/4-mile length of Kneuman Road, keeping media and others out of the area well into the night. Multiple agencies including local police, FBI, border agencies and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office responded.
Elfo said all information regarding the incident would come from the Border Patrol.
In a short statement Thursday night, Border Patrol spokesman Michael Friel offered no details about the nature of the assault or how the agent encountered the person at the border. Friel confirmed the FBI has been briefed and a multiagency team will investigate the shooting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection released this statement late Thursday night:
“On Thursday, March 19, at approximately 2:30 p.m. PST, a U.S. Border Patrol agent on patrol along the U.S.-Canadian border near Sumas, Washington, was assaulted after an encounter with a suspected illegal border crosser. The agent discharged his service-issued weapon, fatally striking the individual. Federal Authorities including the DHS Inspector General, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Internal Affairs are coordinating the investigation with cooperation from CBP’s Border Patrol and the Law Enforcement Multi-Agency Response Team (LEMART) of Whatcom County. Details of the incident have also been provided to the FBI.”