This Week in USBP History, Vol. 48
July 31 - August 6
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
On the approach of the anniversary of the death of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr., I think it's important to share one of the exceptional efforts of Chief Patrol Agent (BORSTAR) William "Bill" Maddocks.
When Agent Vega was killed in 2014, his death was not recognized as being in the line-of-duty by any agency or organization! His name was neither added to the CBP Valor Memorial nor the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial (NLEOM). The Department of Justice (DOJ), Public Safety Officer's Benefits Program (PSOB) did not recognize his loss as a line-of duty death.
In 2016, two years after Agent Vega's death, CBP recognized his sacrifice as a line-of-duty death (see this news article) and his name was add to the NLEOM (see here). Shortly afterward, Bill was tasked to have Agent Vega's death determination revisited by the DOJ's PSOB. That began nearly two years of incredible effort.
In 2018, after four years of significant behind the scenes efforts by Bill, the DOJ's PSOB came to the determination that Javier Vega's death was in the line-of-duty. That determination did not just happen! For months, Bill engaged in complex legal conversations and debates with government lawyers from multiple agencies to explain why Agent Vega died in the line-of-duty. The legal nuances were due to unique aspects of Border Patrol training, culture, and the regulations of the time. In short, Bill explained that Agent Vega put himself on duty and performed a law enforcement action during a robbery. After hundreds of hours of effort in the form of emails, discussions, meetings and research, and four years after the death of a Border Patrol Agent Vega, the PSOB finally ruled his death to be in the line-of-duty.
The ruling is precedent setting and significant. A Border Patrol Agent that takes a law enforcement action while off-duty, can have their death determined to have occurred in line-of-duty. That is a huge precedent, and Bill pushed it over the finish line.
When official word was received that the PSOB ruled Agent Vega's death line-of-duty, I sent Bill an email with the words below:
I am fortunate to be able to have someone like you to be an example for me to emulate. The Border Patrol is a far better organization because of you. It is a loss that your persistence and unwavering tenacity will mostly likely never be known outside of a few people concerning your actions with Agent Vega and the PSOB.
You are truly special and I am proud to be able to call you a friend and am thankful to be part of the same organization of which you are part.
Congratulations and thank you on behalf of all of those who will directly and indirectly benefit from your efforts and the precedence you pushed forth.
When Bill rotated out of HQ to be the Deputy Chief Patrol Agent of Swanton Sector, it was my privilege to process his nomination for the USBP Commendation Medal, of which he received and wears. Further, I clearly remember that Bill's efforts to have Agent Vega's death recognized by the PSOB was included on the USBP Commendation Medal certificate.
This week is HUGE for historical occurrences:
We celebrate the Newton-Azrak Award action anniversary for one agent, and we remember the loss of six of our fallen on the anniversaries of their deaths.
Have a great week!
Esprit de Corps
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
Newton-Azrak Award Action Anniversaries
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Jose M. Martinez
Border Patrol Agent
On August 4, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Jose M. Martinez was on patrol near Sackets Harbor, New York, in the Wellesley Island Border Patrol Station’s area of responsibility within Buffalo Sector. At about 0200 hours, Agent Martinez heard an urgent request for assistance from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department regarding a domestic disturbance with shots fired in Sackets Harbor. Law enforcement presence in this rural area is minimal at best, with no local police, and few deputies or State Police troopers on duty or nearby in such early morning hours. Area law enforcement agencies depend upon each other for assistance when needed, and this morning was no exception. Agent Martinez was one of the first back-up officers to arrive.
Prior to Agent Martinez’ arrival, a male subject had shot his wife multiple times with an assault rifle, leaving her lying critically wounded in the common hallway vestibule of an apartment building. Two Jefferson County Deputies, the only officers then at the scene, had just attempted to rescue the woman, but were forced to retreat when the male subject threatened them at gunpoint from the doorway of his apartment, near where the woman was lying.
Understanding this, and in the face of the still threatening active shooter, Agent Martinez demonstrated outstanding courage and volunteered without hesitation to attempt a rescue of the woman. Acting quickly, decisively, and selflessly, Agent Martinez and two deputies made a tactical approach towards the building.
As one deputy covered them, Agent Martinez and the other deputy entered the immediate danger area, still threatened by the assailant. They grabbed the motionless and defenseless woman, and dragged her out of the building to safety and a waiting ambulance.
Agent Martinez then remained at the scene to assist the local agencies with perimeter security while negotiators attempted to talk the now barricaded assailant out of the building. The subject finally surrendered without further incident when local officers entered the residence at about 0645 hrs.
Border Patrol Agent Jose Martinez’ extraordinary bravery and intrepidity in the face of recognized, real, and eminent danger saved the life of Sherry Morris, at the extreme risk of his own life.
As of May 16, 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 152* fallen.
The facts regarding each officer are presented without major editing of the "language of the day" found in the reports detailing the circumstances of each event. This is done to provide the reader an association with historical timeframes.
Employees who died in the line of duty due to being exposed to deadly illnesses will not have the cause of death listed.
*With the exception of two of the fallen immediately below, all names are listed (or in the process of being included) on the official Honor Roll of U.S. Border Patrol Fallen and inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The U.S. Border Patrol should fix these discrepancies. HonorFirst.com honors both of the fallen.
Augustin de la Pena
Date of Birth: October 9, 1882
Entered on Duty: August 9, 1923
Title: Patrol Inspector
End of Watch: August 2, 1925
On August 2, 1925, Patrol Inspector Augustin De La Pena was shot and killed by an insane Mexican at Rio Grande City, Texas. While eating supper in a restaurant, the officer, accompanied by Patrol Inspector Fred Neale, noticed a Mexican enter the restaurant and get into an argument with the proprietor. It was later learned the Mexican's name was Macario Pena. The Mexican acted very peculiarly, and the officers noticed that he was armed with a revolver. After he left the restaurant, Patrol Inspector De La Pena decided to follow him and question him in regards to his immigration status. Inspector De La Pena followed him into the drug store and started to question him when the Mexican drew his revolver. The officer ordered him to drop the gun, but instead the Mexican fired the bullet struck De La Pena in the abdomen. Wounded, he attempted to take the revolver away from the Mexican. The two struggled behind a counter in the store, which made it impossible for others to assist. De La Pena became weakened by the loss of blood, and in order to protect others, drew his own revolver and shot the Mexican, killing him. Inspector De La Pena died on the operating table a few hours later.
Survivor benefits - As per this document, his wife received $96.67 per month for her and their eight children. After 7 children turned 18, his wife received $65.25 per month for her and one child. The document states that after being shot, his last words were, "My poor family."
Norman R. Salinas
Date of Birth: February 18, 1960
Entered on Duty: December 9, 1984
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: August 4, 1986
Border Patrol Agent Norman Ray Salinas died on Monday, August 4, 1986, at approximately 1:20 a.m., when the government van he was driving went out of control on Interstate 35, south of Cotulla, Texas.
Agent Salinas was transporting Carlos Martinez Alvarenga, an illegal alien from El Salvador, to the Lasalle County Jail in Cotulla from Laredo. Lasalle County Sheriff Darwin Avant stated that Agent Salinas apparently failed to negotiate a curve. The van left the road running onto a median, rolling over several times before finally bursting into flames. Both Agent Salinas and Martinez Alvarenga were thrown from the van. They were dead before the first officers arrived on the scene.
Javier Vega, Jr.
Date of Birth June 17, 1978
Entered on Duty: February 11, 2008
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: August 3, 2014
On Sunday, August 3, 2014, Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr. was shot and killed near Santa Monica, Texas, as he attempted to take a law enforcement action during a robbery while he was fishing with his wife, children, and parents. Two illegal aliens approached them and attempted to rob them. Agent Vega was shot in the chest when he attempted to draw his weapon. His father was also shot and wounded as he returned fire at the men.
Both men fled the scene, but were arrested a short time later. They were charged with capital murder, attempted capital murder, and other crimes. It is believed the same subjects had committed numerous similar robberies at the direction of a Mexican cartel. Both men had been previously deported numerous times.
On September 20, 2016, it was determined that, in light of information identified during the intensive investigation completed by the Willacy County Sheriff s Department, Agent Vega's actions were indicative of his law enforcement training and that he instinctively reacted, placing himself in harm's way to stop a criminal act and protect the lives of others. His death was re-determined to have been in the line of duty.
Agent Vega, who was 36 years old, entered on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol on February 11, 2008, as a member of Academy Class 745. Agent Vega was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the United States Border Patrol for six years. He is survived by his wife, three children, parents and brother.
Marco A. Gonzales
Date of Birth: October 19, 1970
Entered on Duty: November 14, 2005
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: August 5, 2020
Border Patrol Agent Marco A. Gonzales passed away on August 5, 2020. The circumstances of his passing were reviewed by an executive panel and the CBP Commissioner who agreed that this death occurred in the line of duty. Agent Gonzales will be remembered for his diligent service to the nation and for his bravery in the face of danger.
BPA Gonzales entered on duty on November 14, 2005, as part of the 606th Session of the Border Patrol Academy. He served as an agent at the Brackettville, Texas Station throughout his career. During his tenure, Agent Gonzales also served his fellow agents as a union representative.
Prior to becoming a Border Patrol agent, Agent Gonzales honorably served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is survived by his wife, Maria, three children and his parents.
Daniel P. Cox
Entered on Duty: July 28, 1997
Title: Supervisory Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: July 31, 2021
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Cox and another driver were killed on July 31, 2021 in a head-on crash on State Route 86 near Sells, Arizona. Agent Cox and the other driver were pronounced dead about 12:20 a.m.
Agent Cox entered on duty on July 28, 1997 at the Eagle Pass Station in Del Rio Sector as part of the 346th Session of the Border Patrol Academy. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the BORSTAR unit in Tucson Sector as a Canine Handler and Canine Instructor.
Prior to becoming a Border Patrol Agent, Agent Cox served in the U.S. Army, receiving an Honorable Discharge in 1998.
He is survived by his daughters, Alexandria and Elizabeth: sister, Sonia: brother Gilbert: father Stacey: and half-brother, Lucas.
Entered on Duty: July 3, 2006
Title: Border Patrol Agent
End of Watch: July 31, 2021
Agent Acosta-Feliciano died on July 31, 2021. The circumstances of his passing were reviewed by an executive panel and the CBP Commissioner who determined that this death occurred in the line of duty.
Agent Acosta-Feliciano entered on duty on July 31, 2021 as part of the 626th Session of the Border Patrol Academy. At the time of his death he was assigned to the Deming Station in the El Paso Sector.
Prior to becoming a Border Patrol Agent, Agent Acosta-Feliciano served in the U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2004.
He is survived by his wife, Astrid; daughter, Veronica; sons, Adrian and Adner; father, Eduardo; sisters, Gloribel and Maribel; and brothers, Eduardo, Ricardo, and Reynaldo.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Senior Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
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