Alton Jones v. United States of America, et al., No. 3:16-cv-01986-W-WVG (S.D. Cal., filed Aug. 8, 2016)
In August 2014, Alton Jones, a U.S. citizen who served as a Navy SEAL from 1977 to 1990, was assaulted by Border Patrol agents while out for a run at the Border Field State Park / Tijuana Estuary. He was tackled to the ground and then detained, first at the State Park and then at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, where he was held without charge or explanation overnight. All told, he spent seventeen hours in Border Patrol custody before being released. He was never charged with any offense.
On August 8, 2016, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties’ Border Litigation Project filed a federal complaint in the Southern District of California on Mr. Jones’s behalf, alleging violations of Mr. Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights. Additionally, under the Federal Tort Claims Act, Mr. Jones submitted an administrative complaint to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, claiming $3 million in damages for false imprisonment, battery by a peace officer, assault, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the California Bane Act.
On October 20, 2017, CBP denied Mr. Jones’s administrative tort claim. On February 3, 2017, because his administrative claim was denied, the Border Litigation Project filed an amended complaint to add Mr. Jones’s tort claims. On April 7, 2017, Defendants filed an answer to Mr. Jones’s amended complaint. On April 10, 2017, Defendants filed a counterclaim against Mr. Jones, alleging assault.
Discovery commenced in May 2017 and concluded in April 2018. On January 12, 2018, Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the government’s counterclaim, which the government opposed. On May 2, 2018, Defendants filed a combined motion for summary judgment as to all claims brought against them and on their counterclaim against Plaintiff. On May 16, 2018, Defendants, DHS and CBP, filed another motion for summary judgment, this time seeking to dismiss the FOIA claim. Plaintiff opposed both motions. On November 15, 2019, the court dismissed in part and granted in part both motions for summary judgment.
The court dismissed the constitutional claims against the CBP officers, finding that the CBP agents had probable cause to arrest Mr. Jones due to his presence in a restricted area and his failure to heed repeated warnings to leave. The court allowed several of the FTCA claims to proceed. Notably, Jones’ claim for battery survived summary judgment due to Jones’ testimony that officers hit him, supported by documented evidence of injuries. His claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, based on his allegation that the agents locked him in a patrol car with the heat turned on and the windows rolled up (in August desert sun), also was allowed to proceed. The defendants won summary judgment on their counterclaim against Jones for negligence in causing injury to one of the officers.
The parties settled in March 2019, agreeing to drop the claims against each other without either party paying compensation.
- First Amended Complaint
- Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the Counterclaim
- Defendants and Counter-Claimant’s Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment
- Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant’s Reply to Opposition
- Defendants’ and Counter-Claimant’s Combined Motion for Summary Judgment
- Defendants’ (DHS and CBP) Motion for Summary Judgment on FOIA Cause of Action
- Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant’s Opposition to Defendants’ Combined Motion for Summary Judgment
- Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant’s Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on FOIA Cause of Action
- Defendants’ and Counter-Claimant’s Reply in Support of Combined Motion for Summary Judgment
- Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s Motions for Summary Judgment