N4T Investigators: Border Patrol stripping agents of their riflesThe News 4 Tucson Investigators have uncovered that some U.S. Border Patrol agents have lost a key part of their arsenal. And that has agents who patrol along the border here, extremely worried.
We learned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Offices of Border Patrol and Training and Development are inspecting the quality of agents' M4 carbines throughout Border Patrol sectors nationwide. But agents tell us, some of those M4s have not been replaced. And, we've learned, agents are required to share rifles amongst each other.
"There's a lot of agents that are pretty upset over it," said Art del Cueto, president of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector union. "We know it's a dangerous job. We know what we signed on for but we want to have as much of the equipment as we need to perform the job."
The M4 carbine is used by the U.S. military and by Border Patrol agents. It's even used by the Border Patrol's tactical unit, BORTAC. Agent Brian Terry was carrying the M4 when he was shot and killed in December 2010.
Del Cueto tells us that because some of those M4s have not been replaced, agents are pooling their weapons, which makes it difficult to personalize the settings on a rifle, such as the sights.
"The problem is they are now pool guns so what happens is instead of having their individual ones they have sighted in they're having to use a pool weapon that you don't know who used it before you," del Cueto said.
Customs and Border Protection released a statement to the News 4 Tucson Investigators last week, stating: "CBP's Offices of Border Patrol and Training and Development are jointly inspecting the serviceability of M4 carbines throughout Border Patrol Sectors nationwide. Some of (the) inspected M4 carbines were deemed unserviceable and removed from inventory to alleviate safety concerns. Inspections will continue to ensure the unserviceable M4 carbines are repaired or replaced for reintroduction into the field. No further information is available at this time."
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada grew worried when told of the delay in redistributing rifles to agents.
"This is a concern for the officers and for the community as well," he said. "We want to make sure that they have all the equipment that they need to be able to provide the safest environment we possibly can."
Jeff Prather is a former drug enforcement agent who now runs the Warrior School in Tucson. He says agents have reached out to him about the rifle shortage.
He said agents stand the risk of being over-powered on the border.
"Cartels have always been better equipped, the paramilitary forces, the corrupt Mexican soldiers and federales at times," Prather said.
He says agents have contacted him and told him about their concerns about sharing the weapons.
"And now they're seriously concerned. Because if they're concerned enough to reach out and contact me and reach out so we get this message out, they are not only frustrated but they are in fear for their lives."
Prather believes removing some of the rifles maybe politically motivated. He says he was told that many of these guns are being removed for issues that are easily repaired like the firing pin and bolt.
He broke down a M4 as he spoke.
"This weapon is designed to be able to be in a battle situation, changed out rather quickly even so fast that modern weapons have areas to hold spare bolts," he said.
That makes him suspicious that the agency could be disarming its agents.
For now, union president Del Cueto says agents just want their rifles back.
"I hope they replace these weapons as soon as possible or give us some kind of answer as to how they plan on replacing them," he said.