US Customs and Border Protection on Thursday released body camera video of a May 18 shooting incident in which Raymond Mattia, 58, was killed by border agents on tribal land in Arizona. .
Mattia’s family has been desperately searching for answers about why agents killed their relative, who they say was unarmed and had called CBP earlier that day to report undocumented immigrants on his property on the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation. . CBP said its officers were there due to a request for assistance from Tohono O’odham police when they responded to a «call of gunshots.»
In the video, captured on cameras used by three CBP officers at 9:39 p.m., Mattia leaves his home and throws an object, later identified as a sheathed machete. The officers then yell at him to get his hands out of his pockets. He does so abruptly, revealing a dark object. The agents immediately open fire and knock Mattia down. They later found that the dark object was a cell phone that Mattia had taken from his pocket.
A CBP statement released with the video said the agency’s National Use of Force Review Board will review the incident to determine whether officers «followed CBP policy regarding the permissible use of force.»
Frank Figliuzzi, an NBC News contributor who served as a civil rights supervisor for the FBI in San Francisco, said the video shows officers erred in thinking the cellphone was a firearm, but believes it ultimately it will be considered a justified use of force given the officers were responding to a “shot call”, the way Mattia pulled out his phone and the darkness of the environment, among other factors.
“Two things can be true at the same time,” Figliuzzi said. «You can justify a shootout and a mistake.»
It is not clear from the video or from the CBP statements if the agents knew that Mattia had previously called to report undocumented immigrants on his property.
During the 911 call that led to the shooting, also released by CBP on Thursday, Tohono O’odham police tell the CBP dispatcher there is a report of gunshots in a general area, but do not name a person or address. It is unclear how officers determined the shots came from Mattia.
His family members say Mattia thought agents were there to respond to his earlier call about immigrants on his property.
Based on conversations recorded on the officers’ cameras before the shooting, it appeared that they knew Mattia and had identified him as the person responsible for the shooting.
Before the shooting, as officers fan out to search for Mattia, one of them refers to Mattia as «this son of a b—–.»
Mattia’s death was determined to be a homicide by gunshot wounds by the Pima County Medical Examiner. The medical examiner also found methamphetamine, alcohol and oxycodone in Mattia’s system, according to a June 14 report.
The incident is under review by the FBI, the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. One of Mattia’s relatives who spoke with Mattia in the moments before her death told NBC News that she has yet to be interviewed by federal agents.
“I asked that night: ‘We want to talk to someone. What happened to Ray? We need answers,’” said the relative, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from law enforcement.