Border Patrol agents accused in May Taser incident with Ogdensburg woman won’t face criminal charges; lawsuit still pending
By JIMMY LAWTON
Two United States Border Patrol agents involved in the Tasing of a SUNY Canton criminal justice student from Ogdensburg in May remain on active duty and will not face criminal charges.
“(Customs and Border Protection) recently received a declination from the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding the use of an electronic control weapon (Taser) May 7, 2015, at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in northern New York. No criminal charges are pending against the CBP employees involved,” said Michelle Benson-Fuller, a spokeswoman for the agency, in an emailed response.Jessica Cooke, 21, a graduate of Lisbon Central School, was pulled in for a secondary inspection at an immigration checkpoint in May, after agents said she appeared nervous.
Cooke refused a search of her trunk and was asked by agents to wait for a K-9 Unit to arrive.
A conversation with officers escalated and she was tackled and shocked with an electronic control device commonly referred to as a Taser, after she resisted an agent who had grabbed her when she refused to comply with a request for her move.
Cooke said her car was searched and found to be clean and she was not charged with a crime.
A video of the incident can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1OG6dtL.
At the time of the incident, Cooke said she was cuffed for over an hour in the Border Patrol car and was later taken to the U.S. Customs station in Ogdensburg where she was held for 3 to 4 hours and later sent home.
Cooke said she received scrapes and cuts on her legs, back and chest. She said her wrists are also marked from the handcuffs.
Cooke has a two-year degree in criminal justice from SUNY Canton and as well as a law enforcement leadership four-year degree.
Benson-Fuller said the agents will not face criminal charges related to the Cooke incident.
North Country This Week has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Justice for a copy of the declination, but has not yet received a response.
CBP has refused to release the name of agents, but confirmed that both are on duty.
CBP also refused to reveal whether or not the agents were suspended during the internal investigation.
Benson-Fuller says the CBP Use of Force Review Board is reviewing the incident to determine if the agents will face any internal reprimand.
“A CBP Use of Force Review Board will now review the facts gathered in the investigation to determine if the application of force was in compliance with CBP policy and if there was any misconduct that should be referred for further administrative investigation. The board may, if warranted, make recommendations or observations regarding tactics, policy, training and equipment based upon its review,“ Benson-fuller said.
The incident drew concerns from the NY Civil Liberties Union and raised questions about citizen rights at immigration checkpoints, which are common throughout St. Lawrence County.
Cooke hired Ameer Benno of the New York City law firm Benno & Associates P.C., who planned to bring a lawsuit against the U.S. CBP, but Benno said he is no longer on the case.
Cooke says she plans to hire a new attorney and still intends to pursue a civil suit against the agents.