There are two sides to every story.
A story without a clear legal conclusion in San Diego pits one side, that of a former United States Navy SEAL, against that of a Border Patrol agent.
Both agree their meeting in 2014, one that started when the veteran went for a jog near the wall that separates California and Mexico, turned violent. Who started it and who took the brunt of the abuse is what’s about to be settled — in federal court.
The SEAL, Alton Jones, is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The agent, Jodan Johnson, is being represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It’s the first time ever in San Diego history that a federal agent has officially countersued for pain and suffering.
Jones, 57, who served 13 years in the military before being honorably discharged in 1990, filed his lawsuit in 2016, and for the following: excessive use of force, violation of free speech, battery by a peace officer, negligence, violation of a federal public records act and false imprisonment (he spent the night in jail).
According to what he submitted to the court, this is how he says the bloody incident went down when he went to go for a run(via the San Diego Union-Tribune) after he, his wife and their child decided to catch some rays, haul a beach umbrella, towels, toys and other accoutrement to the southern Californian coast:
Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, an iPhone strapped around his arm and wearing earbuds, Jones jogged down a sand path that appeared to go through a wildlife reserve and up to a paved road near the border fence and Friendship Park, his lawsuit says. Neither the path nor road displayed signage or had barriers that suggested pedestrians were not allowed in the area, the suit states.
In the agent’s countersuit, the paved road is described as a restricted area and appears on a park map as a “reserve boundary.”
About a half mile in, Jones noticed a Border Patrol vehicle speeding toward him, and he called his wife to alert her. Meanwhile, another Border Patrol vehicle came up behind him. Jones told the agent in the second vehicle he was planning on running up the hill and back down the beach, the lawsuit states.
The first agent then reached them and used an expletive to yell to Jones to turn around, the lawsuit states. Jones responded with an expletive of his own and asked what the agent’s problem was, according to the complaint.
Jones turned around and began jogging back to the beach, but other agents on ATVs and in a third vehicle began to approach.
“Fearing that if he ran down from the paved road onto the trail, the agents on the quad bikes would collide with him or use their weapons, Mr. Jones decided to stay on the paved road as he tried to return to his family on the beach,” the suit states. “Mr. Jones committed no crime, and he took no actions giving the Defendants any reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that he had committed or was about to commit any crime. Mr. Jones presented no threat to Defendants’ safety and took no actions that would have led reasonable officers to fear for their safety.”
The agents then tackled him “without any warning or justification” and hit him on his back and around his neck, the suit claims. An agent put his knee on his spine and twisted his arms behind his back.
“Mr. Jones repeatedly asked the agents to stop. At no point did he resist the agents or react with his own force,” the suit says.
In the agent’s suit, many of these details are refuted.
It states that the agents’ repeatedly told Jones to get off the road and, when he didn’t, they confronted him. In the account Jones then asked what their problem was. They eventually tried to restrain him after their attempts to alter his route failed, and that’s when their story details the allegation that the former SEAL — not them — started getting physically offensive.
He “resumed a fighting position and tried to find a way past.” They say he then rammed one of the agents with his head when he couldn’t get through. They arrested him for assaulting a federal officer.
The countersuit is blank on an important fact, however. Something essential to the case that was requested by the ACLU — through the Freedom of Information Act — in March of 2015, was never produced: documentation of the arrest, or the detention — one that last 17 hours behind bars at the Imperial Beach station.