Border Patrol Confirms It Made Arrest With Unmarked Van in Portland

Officers had markings on uniforms, video shows
July 18, 2020 Updated: July 18, 2020

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed it made an arrest in Portland captured on video, which was later widely circulated. Agents did have markings on their uniforms, despite claims otherwise.

CBP officers “had information indicating the person in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property,” the agency said in a statement late Friday.

Once agents approached the suspect, “a large and violent mob” moved toward them.

“For everyone’s safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning,” the agency stated.

The officers in the video wore insignia, the agency noted. Mark Morgan, CBP’s acting commissioner, said that the personnel were “clearly marked” as federal law enforcement officers.

Because of recent doxing incidents, or people disclosing personal information like addresses, the names of agents were not displayed, he added in a statement. The same “violent criminals” who agents have arrested are doing the doxing, according to Morgan, putting the officers’ lives and families at risk.

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Demonstrators set off smoke grenades on the steps of Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Video footage showed two officers walking in Portland this week and detaining a person dressed in black.

The officers took the person and guided them into a minivan that was not marked. After the trio entered, another officer drove the vehicle away.

One person can be heard saying during the arrest: “What are you doing? Use your words.” As the situation unfolded, she added, “NLG will get you out.”

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has promised to bail out anyone involved in protests.

After the footage went viral, a number of Democratic lawmakers and media outlets claimed the officers were not wearing any identification. The officers both wore CBP markings and patches that said “Police.”

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Demonstrators with shields stand in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

“Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), called on the inspector generals of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to investigate the actions of federal forces in Portland, citing the arrest seen in the video.

“These agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification,” Merkley said in a statement.

“The jarring reports of federal law enforcement officers grabbing peaceful protesters off the street should alarm every single American. This is not the way a government operates in a functioning democracy,” added Blumenauer.

Violent demonstrations have taken place in Portland on a nightly basis since late May, according to police officials, reports, video footage, and photographs. The groups, which include members of the far-left Antifa, repeatedly cause damage to the Justice Center, which houses a police precinct, and the nearby Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, a federal building.

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Demonstrators try blocking a door to the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

At least nine people were arrested in recent days for charges including destroying federal property and assaulting federal officers. One man was shown on video hitting a federal officer with a 4-pound construction hammer while others allegedly used high-intensity lasers in attempts to blind officers.

Video footage from Friday night showed the group putting fencing in front of an exit at the courthouse and an exit at the Justice Center. The group also shot commercial grade fireworks and smoke bombs, the Portland Police Bureau said. Several people were arrested.

Violent demonstrators caused $23 million in damage and lost customers to businesses downtown as of July 8, Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said during a briefing.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a briefing Friday that officers have a line of communication with federal agents because they’re operating in close proximity.

“We do communicate with federal officers for the purpose of situational awareness and deconfliction,” Lovell said. “We’re operating in a very, very close proximity to one another.”

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Federal officers use tear gas and other crowd dispersal munitions on violent demonstrators in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

Oregon Lawsuit

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit in federal court against several agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for allegedly engaging in unlawful law enforcement in violation of the civil rights of Oregonians by seizing and detaining them without probable cause.

The tactics undertaken by federal officers “not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully,” Rosenblum said, “they also create a more volatile situation on our streets.”

Rosenblum cited the July 16 arrest. The person arrested was identified as Mark Pettibone.

The state Department of Justice Criminal Justice Division also opened a criminal investigation into the use of force on July 12, when a man was struck by a a round after hurling a canister towards officers.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is also investigating the recent use of force, a spokesman said.

Donavan La Bella, 26, required facial reconstructive surgery, his mother told The Oregonian.

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Mannequins are seen through shattered glass at an H&M store in downtown Portland, Ore., after violent demonstrations the night before, on July 13, 2020. (Gillian Flaccus/AP Photo)

DHS Protection

A DHS task force to help protect monuments and federal facilities was created in response to the activities in Portland and elsewhere, with rioters trying to topple statues and breach federal buildings.

The Protecting American Communities Task Force was meant to coordinate assets inside the department, Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf said.

“We won’t stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities,” he said in a statement.

Rapid deployment teams were pre-positioned across the country ahead of July 4.

A separate task force created to stop “violent anti-government extremists of all persuasions” was formed last month at Attorney General William Barr’s direction.

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Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf meets with federal officers in Portland in an undated photograph released July 17, 2020. (Department of Homeland Security)

“Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction, and coercion,” Barr wrote in a memo.

Wolf traveled to Portland on July 16 to meet with federal officers and tour the damage to the courthouse there.

Wolf called the people gathering on a nightly basis “lawless anarchists” and praised the law enforcement officers seeking to protect the building.

The siege could end if state and local officials decide to quell the demonstrations, Wolf asserted, adding that he will not order the withdrawal of federal troops.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat who is also the city’s police commissioner, refused to meet with Wolf. He and a number of local and state officials want federal troops to leave the city, blaming them for the violence.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber