Deadly crash reignites debate over Border Patrol chases

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OTAY RANCH, Calif. – A rollover crash Thursday morning on state Route 125 left one person dead and prompted the closure of both directions of the freeway in the Otay Ranch area east of Chula Vista, authorities said.

Four people suspected of illegally entering the U.S. loaded into an SUV at Alta Road, about a mile north of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, at 6:53 a.m. and drove away, Border Patrol agent Justin Castrejon said.

Kyleigh Marsay Polite, 29, was taken into custody following the crash on reckless driving, and vehicular manslaughter charges.

“Agents initiated a vehicle stop. The vehicle fled from Border Patrol agents and wound up here on the 125,” Castrejon said.

The driver of the SUV lost control of the vehicle and it rolled over in the median of SR-125 near Olympic Parkway. One person died and four people were taken to hospitals. The extent of their injuries were not released.

CHP closed SR-125 in both directions between Olympic Parkway and Otay Lakes Road to investigate the crash. Some lanes were reopened around 8:45 a.m.

The crash came just a few weeks after an extensive investigation by the LA Times and ProPublica, that looked into high-speed pursuits involving CBP. The report looked at data over the past four years in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and tallied at least 500 pursuits involving CBP. Of those, one in three ended in a crash, 250 with injuries and 22 with deaths.

“Most police have backed away from police chases unless it involves felons,” argued James Cordero with Border Angels, an organization that advocates for immigrant’s rights. “Border Patrol just seems to want to catch any person they can.”

Cordero questioned whether Thursday’s chase was necessary in the first place.

“They know people are unrestrained, they know people don’t have seatbelts on properly, they know the vehicles are jam-packed, and they contnue to chase after them.”

But border officials said the blame rested with smugglers. “Based on our training and experience, it was indicative of the immigrants we pursue on a daily basis,” said Agent Justin Castrejon. “This is another example of the dangers alien smugglers put people in. Not only the people they are smuggling, but the traveling public.”

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