A still from a viral video in which a citizen of the Tohono O'odham Nation was struck by a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle in Arizona on June 14, 2018. Video: Amy Marie
'They ran me over, bro': Tohono O'odham Nation investigates Border Patrol incident
The Tohono O'odham Nation has opened a criminal investigation after one of its citizens was struck by a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle in Arizona.

In a statement issued on Friday, Chairman Edward D. Manuel said he was aware of "disturbing video footage" of the June 14 incident. A clip that has been viewed more than 400,000 times on Facebook and more than 38,000 times on Twitter shows a Border Patrol vehicle driving straight toward the male victim before striking him.

Despite being forced to the ground, the victim, who has been identified by advocates as Paulo Remes, was aware enough to start reading off the plate number of the offending vehicle.

"Yeah, they just ran me over, dude," Remes, who was on the phone at the time, told the other person on the line.

"They ran me over, bro," he said. "I'm lying on the floor, dude."

The clip shows the Border Patrol vehicle speeding away as Remes lays on the ground. His foot can be seen in the lower left corner of the video.

Please share... this happened to Paulo today...

Posted by Amy Marie on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Since the incident occurred in Topawa, a community on the reservation, Chairman Manuel has asserted the tribe's jurisdiction. He also said the federal authorities are involved.

"The Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department, which has primary jurisdiction for all crimes committed on the Nation, is conducting the investigation in concert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office," Manuel said.

According to Manuel, Remes was treated at a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries. But advocates on the reservation said the incident represents a pattern of threatening activity by the Border Patrol.

"These crimes committed against people of color will continue until there are laws in place that hold federal agents to the highest degree of accountability in the communities they serve,"said a grassroots group known as Indivisible Tohono, which helped draw widespread attention to the incident.


The Border Patrol has acknowledged the tribe's investigation and said it was "fully cooperating." A statement raised the possibility of potential "misconduct" by the agent who was involved.

"We stress honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission," the statement read. "We do not tolerate misconduct on or off duty and will fully cooperate with all investigations of alleged unlawful conduct by our personnel."

The Tohono O'odham Nation shares a 62-mile border with Mexico. For decades, the tribe's leaders and citizens have had to deal with an ever increasing presence of federal agents.

The arrival of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., has further heightened tensions. In one of his first major actions after taking office in January 2017, he ordered the construction of a wall along the border without consulting the tribe or any other Indian nations.

"Over my dead body will a wall be built," Vice Chairman Verlon Jose famously told YES! Magazine.

Tohono Oodham Nation on YouTube: "There's No O'odham Word for Wall"

Despite the often-shifting policies of the federal government, the tribe's government has long sought more resources to address border-related crime, drugs and human trafficking. In testimony to Congress last month, Chairman Manuel said current levels of funding are "totally inadequate" to meet the needs in Indian Country.

"The Tohono O’odham Police Department (TOPD) must cover a huge geographic area, including many remote and isolated areas that are difficult to access," Manuel said in his written statement. "Communication among law enforcement agencies is particularly challenging, as interoperability is extremely limited. Drug trafficking, illegal immigration and border security also require substantial TOPD resources -- more than a third of the TOPD budget is expended on border security."

Manuel said the tribe's police department handled more than 101,000 incidents during its 2017 fiscal year. The reservation consists of more than 2.8 million acres, making it one of the largest in the United States.

But even as the Trump administration has boasted of committing more agents to the border, the effort has not always benefited Indian Country. According to the chairman, the tribe spends more than $3 million every year to "help meet the United States’ border security responsibilities."

The incident involving Paulo Remes took place at his grandmother's abandoned house on the reservation, according to advocates. He started filming the Border Patrol agent who was there as he placed the call to his brother.

After being struck, Remes was treated at the Sells Indian Hospital, a tribally-managed Indian Health Service facility in Sells. The facility is about 8 miles from Topawa.

"The family wants this story to go public, and are hurting with the fact that they may have lost their brother today," advocates said on Thursday.

Chairman Manuel's full statement follows:
“On the evening of Jun. 14, 2018, a vehicle incident occurred in Topawa, Ariz. involving a U.S. Border Patrol agent and a 34-year-old man who is a Tohono O’odham Nation tribal member. The victim was transported to a health care facility and was later released on his own recognizance after it was determined he did not appear to have life threatening injuries. The Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department, which has primary jurisdiction for all crimes committed on the Nation, is conducting the investigation in concert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office.

The Nation is aware of disturbing video footage of the incident that has been posted online. The safety and wellbeing of the general public is the Nation’s top priority, and the Nation’s leadership is monitoring this issue closely.

As this is an active investigation matter, no further comments are available at this time.”

The Border Patrol's full statement follows:
"The United States Border Patrol, Tucson Sector is fully cooperating with the Tohono O’odham Police Department as they investigate a Border Patrol agent involved vehicle incident that occurred late Thursday evening on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Tucson Sector has been made aware of a video taken yesterday on the Tohono O’odham Nation relevant to this incident.

We stress honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission. We do not tolerate misconduct on or off duty and will fully cooperate with all investigations of alleged unlawful conduct by our personnel."