Wrongful Death Claim Filed Against Border Patrol by Family of Woman Slain by Agent

by on October 15, 2012 · 6 comments

in Editor's Picks, Government

Memorial site for Valeria near the spot of her death.

Lawyer for Family Cites Long History of Misconduct by Agent Justin Tackett Prior to Shooting Death of Valeria “Munique” Tachiquin Alvarado

The lawyer for the family of Valeria “Munique” Tachiquin Alvarado – shot to death by a Border Patrol agent on September 28th – has filed a wrongful death claim against the Border Patrol.

Eugene Iredale – a renowned criminal defense attorney in San Diego – retained by her family, just filed a claim on Friday, October 12th, that seeks damages and raises significant concerns about the agent who killed her.  Agent Justin Tackett has been named in the family’s claim, but has not been identified by the Border Patrol nor by the Chula Vista Police who are investigating the killing.

Iredale said Agent Tackett shot Alvarado nine times.

The wrongful death claim, filed on behalf of Alvarado’s parents, husband and five children, states that the shooting was “the unjustified use of legal force in circumstances that did not justify its use.” The filing for damages is the first step before suing a government agency, and the Border Patrol has 6 months to respond before the family can file suit.

Agent Tackett Suspended 4 Times From Imperial County Sheriffs Department for Misconduct

Researchers with Iredale’s office have uncovered a long history of misconduct by Agent Tackett.  Before being employed with the U.S. Border Patrol, he had been suspended four times for misconduct by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department – and as he was about to be fired, he quit. Court documents filed by Iredale lists these facts.

According to the U-T San Diego report on the filing, Iredale said that suspensions and near-firing from the Sheriff’s in Imperial County demonstrates that he was:

“reckless, with a temperament inappropriate for law enforcement work. He was involved in mistake after mistake, misconduct after misconduct. He should never had been hired by the Border Patrol”.

The following was reported by the U-T about Tackett:

  • He was a Sheriff’s Department court bailiff and patrol deputy from January 2000 through December 2003.
  • In 2004, he filed suit against the county and the department, alleging wrongful termination, racial discrimination, retaliation for being a whistle-blower and intentional infliction of emotional distress; he claimed that his supervisors retaliated against him when he tried to go after friends, family and supporters of top sheriffs or politicos on the County Board of Sups.
  • Tackett also claimed he was denied promotions and transfers because he is white, and that other deputies were told to not back him up if he radioed for help.  His suit alleged that he was forced to resign “or else risk dying on the job” and because of the department’s “relentless mission to silence his protest of governmental misconduct.”
  • The county defended the department’s actions by stating that Tackett showed unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, insubordination and incompetence on the job.
  • the Sheriff’s Department suspended Tackett two of the five times he crashed a patrol car on duty and once after an altercation with a Brawley resident.
  • In 2002, the department said he was suspended for 30 days for lying to supervisors over an incident involving a probation search.
  • In 2003, a county prosecutor rejected one of Tackett’s drug arrests, saying the number of times the deputy violated the suspect’s rights were “almost too numerous to list.”
  • Tackett was issued a termination notice after that incident, but he quit before being fired.
  • Tackett lost his wrongful termination case two years later without going to trial. A federal judge in San Diego entered a judgment in favor of Imperial County and the Sheriff’s Department, saying the deputy’s lawsuit had failed to provide evidence of his claims.
  • Between law enforcement jobs, from 2004 to 2006, Tackett worked as a staff assistant in the El Cajon office of then-Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter.

In a phone interview by the U-T with Joe Kasper, a deputy chief of staff to the current congressman (son of then-Congressman Hunter) and who recalled Tackett, stated that the office knew Tackett had a lawsuit against Imperial County when he was hired.  Kasper told the U-T:

“He was well-connected in the law enforcement community. He did constituent services, especially for law enforcement issues. He was a hard worker. He left the office and committed himself to go into the Border Patrol.”

Mainstream Media Still Accept Official Version

While mainstream media still accept the official Border Patrol version of what happened, Chula Vista police continue their investigation.

Having changed several times, the current official version of what occurred that day has Valeria Alvarado, leaving an apartment known for drug activity. She supposedly brushes past undercover Border Patrol agents as they try to deliver a felony warrant, gets into her car, and while attempting to leave the scene  hits one – Tackett – with her car. At the time, he was not in uniform. Tackett is supposed to have been flung up on her hood, and then she is supposed to have then carried him on her hood as he yelled at her to stop for 300 yards. Then, fearing for his life, he files his revolver through the windshield at her, killing her.  Iredale says he shot her 9 times.

Part of the pushback by police and the mainstream media was to try to color Valeria as a druggie and miscreant, citing her probationary status for a 2011 drug-related conviction, and her convictions for drunken driving in 2000 and methamphetamine possession in 2004, as somehow valid justification to belittle her and allow for the agent to fire his weapon.

The official version has agents going to a Moss Street apartment in Chula Vista to arrest a previously deported felon with a history of drug charges, and it is clear that that person was not Valeria.   Witnesses have reported that they saw Tackett on the ground walking toward the car as it  backed up and then firing at her.

With their wrongful death claim, Alvarado’s family is obviously challenging the police and Border Patrol account of the shooting.  And Gene Iredale is an excellent attorney to carry the claim forward for the family. He is well respected and has an extensive federal court practice.

The U-T quoted Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, who said he’s:

“confident the agent did the right thing. No Border Patrol agent takes being involved in a fatal shooting lightly. If the agent says his life was threatened and he needed to use deadly force, we’re going to back him and accept his statement at face value.

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A lawyer and grassroots activist, I was finally convinced by Patty Jones to start the OB Rag, a blog of citizen journalists, after she got tired of listening to my rants about the news. Way back during the Dinosaurs in 1970, I founded the original Ocean Beach People’s Rag - OB’s famous underground newspaper -, and then later during the early Eighties, published The Whole Damn Pie Shop, a progressive alternative to the Reader.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Doug Porter October 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

The smear campaign against her was another reminder of life in a town dominated by a media monopoly. The UT said it, so it must be was true.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Gene Iredale – lawyer for the slain woman’s family – is an excellent attorney; I watched him once give such a closing argument before a jury that it stayed with me for years and at the height of my own legal career, I used his technique to recreate adverse witness testimony and was successful in my use of it.

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avatar bob dorn October 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

If nothing else, we have to thank the family for being willing to go forward with this suit. It’s clear the CVPD won’t be defying the Border Patrol and charging the shooter, and perhaps this civil suit will reveal the loose practice of an agency that sends an agent into a neighborhood in plainclothes and then protects that agent’s name and record from public awareness after he shoots an unarmed woman nine times.

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avatar Gordon Wagner October 16, 2012 at 11:53 am

Is the Border Patrol so hard up for workers that they’ll overlook red flags like the ones in this guy’s dossier? Did NO ONE vet him at all?

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avatar Patrick December 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Is no one going to question weather or not the use of deadly force was justified? The woman hit Agent Thakett with her car and carried him on the hood of her car for 200 yards. Does he have a questionable past? Yes he does. Does that have any bearing on this current case? Lets wait for the investigation to know for sure.

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avatar jennie ruiz December 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Just because the officer claims all that stuff happened does not mean it is true. Witness accounts do not support this. If she hit him so hard he flew up in the air and became lodged in her windshield, how did he manage to hold on, grab his weapon and fire close range shots all at the same time? One would think that to be struck by a car, slammed into a windshield and then carried along for 300 yards to be very disorienting. Sounds like bureaucratic coverup to me. Oh and for the record, I am speaking from experience. My brother was killed by police officers earlier this year. Six months of complete silence from officialdom. Coverup anyone?

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