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Valley man says he was unlawfully detained during Border Patrol traffic stop

Posted at 10:25 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-18 08:21:16-04

A Valley man is preparing to sue U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for what he says was an illegal traffic stop that led to unlawful detention.

Kim Baker, 53, was traveling back from a July weekend fishing trip with friends near Yuma when he was pulled over by an agent.

It began, Baker says, when he was fishing down a dirt road near Avenue 20, off of the U.S. 80.

"I heard tires pull up, and I see border patrol sitting there," said Baker. "I thought, let me let them know what I am doing. So I reached down to pick my fishing pole up and literally held it up like this, with the line still in the water."

Baker said the agent never approached him or his three friends nearby. When he pulled away in his beat-up pickup truck, though, he says the CBP truck began to follow his.

"They got in between us, and that's when they affected the lights on me," said Baker.

There was little small talk.

"Can I see your license?" recalled Baker. "I said 'Yeah, but can you tell me why are you pulling us over?'"

The agent did not answer right away, and according to Baker, other agents quickly drove up and got involved, while the initial agent was running their licenses.

"Why didn't you guys go to Lake Pleasant? That's about an hour from where you live," Baker says the agent asked.

"That’s what infuriated me. I said, "Wait a minute; I have an Arizona state fishing license that permits me to fish anywhere in the state where it is legal. Are you saying I can’t fish here?'" replied Baker.

"Oh no, no that’s not what I am saying," Baker said the agent responded.

The father said when he pressed the initial agent again about the reason behind the initial stop.

"Because I've never seen this truck out here," was the response, according to Baker. "I knew at that point; this was harassment."

He claims the agents even extended the traffic stop so a K-9 vehicle could arrive at the scene.

"When the gentleman with the dog shows up, he parks 10 feet from my vehicle, with the window down," said Baker. "I think they thought we were running drugs or trafficking drugs."

Baker believes race was a factor.

In a recently filed Notice of Claim, which seeks $125,000 for both Baker and his passenger, the attorney cites "a humiliating and emotionally distressing experience."

"This really put [my friend] in a paranoid state," said Baker.

The lawsuit goes on to say, "The wrongful arrest and detention of Mr. Baker and [his friend] were not based on a valid violation of any law or statute and was simply a “fishing expedition” by the officer."

Some people believe the agents were doing their job.

"Being pulled over and being arrested are two different things," said Rick Valle, who overheard the interview with Mr. Baker. "There's nothing wrong with just asking questions."

Baker says he hopes his lawsuit is a reminder to all the agents on Arizona streets and sets an example.

"Immediately file a complaint if you are ever harassed by the border patrol," he said. "It's not about the money. It's really about sending a message."

In a statement to ABC15, a CBP official said, "As a matter of policy US Customs and Border Protection cannot issue a comment on pending litigation. However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations."