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N4T Investigators: Questionable conduct

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TUCSON - It was shocking video that went viral of a Border Patrol officer running down a resident on the Tohono O'odham Nation and not stopping to find out if there were injuries.

The video has been seen worldwide. It sparked outrage from many, including tribal leaders.

It happened nearly two years ago.  

During that time the FBI, Office of Inspector General, and the Tohono O'odham Police investigated the incident.

News 4 Tucson Investigators learned there were no charges filed against the agent, but there is an internal investigation underway.

Paulo Remes recorded the 37-second video on a cellphone.

"They just ran over over me bro," Remes said in the video.

News 4 Tucson obtained a 28-page deposition taken two weeks after the incident.

The deposition revealed startling details from the Tohono O'odham police officer who investigated.

Art Del Cueto is the president of the local 2544 and the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.  

"The investigation has been completed," said Del Cueto. "It was proven that it was pretty much a doctored video."

Marty Fuentes retired from the Tucson Police Department after nearly 32 years.  

At the time of the incident, Fuentes was working for the Tohono O'odham Police Department as the lead traffic investigator with over 40 years experience.

In a sworn statement, Fuentes said the following:

"He [Paulo Remes] got in front of the vehicle and then the vehicle came by him. And from my summation from the dynamics I saw, he, he didn't get hit by the vehicle, the main portion. It may have been a slight brush but he wasn't hit by the vehicle to where he could have been badly injured."

Defense attorney Sean Chapman questioned Fuentes.

Question: Kind of suggests he wasn't really hurt if he continued videotaping?

Answer: Well, it's, yes. I guess that it wasn't that much of a hit if there was any brush at all.

The Border Patrol agent has not charged. Therefore, News 4 Tucson has not identified him.

The criminal portion of the investigation is now over. The administrative investigation remains ongoing and Del Cueto is part of it.

"The reality is, we had a police chief that was trying to frame a border patrol agent," said Del Cueto. "And in his own words, 'he wanted to stick it to the Border Patrol.'"

That statement, according to the deposition, was made by the Tohono O'odham interim police chief Rodney Irby, when he ordered the agent's vehicle impounded.

Irby told Fuentes: "'Well, we're impounding it because we want to stick it to the Border Patrol,' or those basic words. That they were always messing with us, not letting us have the, you know, the scene, taking vehicles away and 'we're going to do it to them this time.'"

During the investigation, Fuentes learned two days prior to the incident that Remes had a similar confrontation with another officer.

After the video was shown on televsion, another officer spoke with Fuentes.

"This guy [Remes] had been confronting him on a couple of occasions," Fuentes said about Remes and the officer. "He said that this guy had stepped in front of his vehicle when he was investigating a situation by his house and then the guy told him, 'Run me over, run me over.'"

Fuentes asked the officers to write a report.

Shortly afterwards, Fuentes said he received a call from Chief May.

"...They were concerned about the way I was handling the case," Fuentes said. "Assistant Chief May told me, he says, 'You know, we want this case to be-, come out favorable to the Nation and to Pal-, Paulo.'"

Del Cueto added, "They didn't care about the evidence, they didn't care about the case.  All they wanted was to make the Border Patrol look bad. You don't do that as a law enforcement officer."

Fuentes said he was "stunned," and that Chief May repeated it.

"And I said, 'No, no, no, no,'" said Fuentes. "I said, 'We're not even half-done with this case. I haven't talked to the agent. We can't make a decision one way or the other.'"

Del Cueto added, "Corruption that comes to my mind at this point."

 Fuentes was moved from the case.

"...They called me and they said, 'We really are not pleased with the way you're handling this case. We're going to remove you-, remove you from the case,'" said Fuentes.

Del Cueto said it's a travesty to see that in a law enforcement agency.

Fuentes died last year of an apparent heart attack.

"Here you had an individual who wanted to do the right thing and did the right thing. He was a very good man," said Del Cueto. "He was proud and everyone was proud to know him."

News 4 Tucson Investigators reached out to the Tohono O'odham Nation. They provided the following statement:

"As a general rule, the Nation does not comment on ongoing investigations and refers questions on the status of this issue to the U.S. Attorney's office and Customs and Border Protection. That said, The Nation places no stock whatsoever in politically-motivated, misinformation campaigns and they should be seen for what they are. The Tohono O'odham Police officers referenced in these allegations are highly-decorated officers with many decades of frontline experience. As always, the Nation remains focused on the facts and evidence in this case, as everyone should be doing."

Matt Smith for the Tohono O'odham Nation

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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