One night in July 2008, U.S. Border Patrol agents with the Department of Homeland Security found Tomas Sanchez Orzuna on a street in San Clemente, sprayed him in the face with toxic chemicals, handcuffed him, beat him, took him to a check point station and hosed him down so violently with water he died from a heart attack while officers refused to rendered medical aid.
That's the gist of a 2010 federal civil rights lawsuit filed in Orange County by Orzuna's distraught, surviving parents.
“The involved border patrol agents should have known that [pepper
spray], which they utilized against [the victim], could cause death in
overweight people, such as [Orzuna],” the lawsuit asserts. “They also
knew, or should have known, that when mixed with water the spray could
The water-chemical mix caused “extreme pain” before Orzuna fell
unconscious and died, according to the complaint, which goes on to call
the agents' “excessive force” conduct “careless,” “cruel,” “heinous” and
so “unconscionable that they shock the conscience.”
The lawsuit also
alleges that agents tried to cover up their excessive force by falsely
claiming the victim had resisted arrest.
Government officials inside the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to
acknowledge any wrongdoing, but thought $15,000 was adequate
compensation for the loss of Orzuna, who was born in 1969.
(By the way, that amount includes all lawyer fees and expenses.)
This week, the victim's parents–David Sanchez Adorno and Julia Orzuna
Lopez–accepted the amount and U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna
closed the case inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.