Ms. Christiansen stopped her vehicle and was approached by a Border
Patrol agent. The agent asked her if she was a U.S. citizen; she
answered affirmatively. The agent then demanded that Ms. Christiansen
exit her vehicle so it could be searched. Ms. Christiansen stated that
she did not consent to a search and asked the agent why she had been
stopped. The agent responded that he would not provide an explanation
until Ms. Christiansen exited her vehicle. Ms. Christiansen stated that
she would not exit her vehicle until she was provided with an
explanation for the stop. The agent refused and was clearly agitated
that Ms. Christiansen had requested an explanation. At that point, two
additional Border Patrol agents approached Ms. Christiansen’s vehicle.
Ms. Christiansen then stated that if there was no reason for
stopping her that she would be on her way, and wished the agent a good
day. The agent told her, “You’re not going anywhere.” That agent then
said to the other agents, “This one is being difficult, get the Taser.”
The agent opened the driver’s side door and demanded that she exit. Ms.
Christiansen, now fearing for her safety and that of her children,
refused. Ms. Christiansen’s children became upset; her daughter asked,
“Mommy what’s going on?” Ms. Christiansen told the children to stay calm
and sit still, but she could see they were confused and afraid.
The agent then approached Ms. Christiansen with a retractable knife
and threatened to cut her out of her seatbelt if she didn’t exit the
vehicle. Ms. Christiansen repeated her demand for an explanation, which
the agents still refused to give her. Instead, the agent forcibly
reached inside Ms. Christiansen’s vehicle without her consent and
removed the keys from the ignition.
Ms. Christiansen had no choice but to exit the vehicle. She
presented her identification. The agents ran a background check, gave
her back her driver’s license, returned to their vehicle without saying
anything, and drove away. The entire stop lasted approximately 35
minutes. At that point, Ms. Christiansen noticed that her rear tire had
been punctured and was flat. There was a large incision along the side
of the tire, consistent with a knife puncture and not a routine or
accidental flat. It was a very hot day and there was no one for miles
around. Fortunately, Ms. Christiansen was able to contact her brother to
bring her a car jack to change the flat tire.
Ms. Christiansen reported the incident as soon as she arrived home,
at around 4:00 pm. She called Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson as
well as the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. She was contacted the next
day by DHS official Vincent Zarcone, who identified himself as an
investigator. Ms. Christiansen relayed the details of her ordeal to Mr.
Zarcone over the phone and stated that she was seeking compensation for
the flat tire. Mr. Zarcone invited Ms. Christiansen to his office to
make a formal report, and asked that she bring the tire for evidence.
The next day, Ms. Christiansen met with Mr. Zarcone and two other
DHS officials at 4720 N. Oracle Road, Suite 308 in Tucson, Arizona.
Again she described the agents and their actions, and repeated her
request for compensation. Mr. Zarcone and the other officials took down
her story. Ms. Christiansen also provided Mr. Zarcone with the damaged
tire and a receipt showing the cost of a replacement tire, which totaled
approximately $50.00. Mr. Zarcone photographed but kept the flat tire.
He told Ms. Christiansen that she “might” get a call regarding the case.
When Ms. Christiansen contacted Mr. Zarcone in late June 2013, a
month after they had met, he told her the case had “been investigated.”
When she asked what the outcome would be, he did not say. Only after the
ACLU contacted Mr. Zarcone on Ms. Christiansen’s behalf did he report
that the matter had been transferred to another DHS official, Richard
Hill. Ms. Christainsen’s attempted to contact Mr. Hill, but Mr. Hill did
not initially respond. Finally, he responded that Ms. Christiansen’s
request for compensation was “not something my office deals with” and
provided her with an FTCA complaint form.