- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A former U.S. Border Patrol agent sentenced with his partner to prison for shooting a drug smuggling suspect suffered “minor” injuries when he was assaulted Saturday night by fellow inmates at a federal prison in Mississippi, the White House said yesterday.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, reading a statement from a Bureau of Prisons official at the Federal Correctional Complex in Yazoo City, Miss., said a “thorough investigation” has been ordered into the incident.

Agents Ignacio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28, surrendered to federal authorities Jan. 17 to begin 11- and 12-year prison sentences, respectively, for shooting the suspect in the buttocks after he abandoned a van with 743 pounds of marijuana along the Mexico border in Texas.

Ramos was sent to Mississippi and Compean to the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio.

In the one-paragraph statement, bureau spokesman Charles Smith said that Ramos reported to prison officials at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, that he had been assaulted and that an evaluation by the facility’s medical staff determined that he sustained “some bruises and abrasions.”

“The injuries sustained were minor in nature,” Mr. Smith said. “Inmate Ramos was subsequently placed in the special housing unit, pending a thorough investigation of the incident. He will remain in the special housing unit until the conclusion of this investigation. No further information is available at this time.”

Spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said in Washington that the bureau has “a long history of safely housing sentenced law-enforcement officers in general population,” adding that the assault occurred immediately after the airing of a television show that described Ramos’ case.

“It is regrettable that Mr. Ramos was assaulted, and the Bureau of Prisons will take appropriate actions to determine an appropriate housing status and ensure his ongoing safety,” she said. “The Bureau of Prisons is vigorously investigating the matter and will pursue all appropriate sanctions against the assailants.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who has been critical of the government’s prosecution of the agents, said the incident “clearly demonstrates the severe risk involved with incorporating Border Patrol agents into general prison populations.

“An overwhelming number of federal inmates are non-U.S. citizens who have been apprehended by the Border Patrol,” Mr. Hunter said. “The danger to agents Compean and Ramos was immediately apparent, and the attack against agent Ramos could have been prevented.”

Last month, Mr. Hunter recommended that the agents be segregated. He said he had been assured that they would be removed from the general population and that close attention was being paid to their personal safety.

Mr. Hunter called on President Bush yesterday to investigate the attack and order Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin’s termination “should it be ascertained that the proper precautions were not taken.”

Compean’s wife, Patty, said her husband was offered a choice of general population or isolation, and chose isolation for his safety.

“Last week we were offered a chance for him to be placed in the general population, which we rejected immediately as a family, because of the high risk and fear for his safety,” she said. “This attack only reinforces why they must be kept isolated from a prison’s general population.”

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