Steven Seagal: The Border’s Newest Deputy

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Courtesy Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office
Actor Steven Seagal and his new boss Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West

Last seen driving a SWAT team tank through a man’s home in Phoenix, which resulted in a dead puppy and a lawsuit, middle-aged action hero Steven Seagal, 59, is now bringing his one-man show to Hudspeth County. Last week he was sworn in as a deputy by Sheriff Arvin West.

Hudspeth, which neighbors El Paso County, has more ocotillo cacti and cattle than it does human beings. Roughly twice the size of Delaware it has just 3,300 residents.

But it also has 98 miles of border with Mexico, which is presumably why Seagal is in Texas – to kick some drug cartel ass. But first Seagal will have to battle his own demons. His reality show on A&E “Steven Seagal: Lawman” was suspended last year after his 23-year old personal assistant accused him of allegedly locking her in his home outside New Orleans and using her as a “sex toy” along with two Eastern European prostitutes. She filed a civil lawsuit against him alleging illegal trafficking of females for sex, sexual harassment, and false representation about employment among other things. The case was later dismissed but it’s unclear whether it was dropped or settled out of court.

After New Orleans, Seagal washed up in Phoenix, Arizona, last November to become part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Illegal Immigration Fighters.” Arpaio’s team — he also has a reality show — was something like the poor man’s “Expendables.” In Phoenix, Seagal joined Lou Ferrigno of “Incredible Hulk” fame and Peter Lupus from “Mission Impossible.” And together they hassled a lot of brown people. While filming his show there, Seagal ran into a little trouble after he drove a tank though a man’s home who was allegedly involved in cockfighting. Here’s an excerpt from the Forbes magazine web site, which sums up the infamous “puppycide” incident:

“…during a totally routine raid on the home of cockfighting suspect Jesus Llovera, Seagal captained a SWAT tank to lead dozens of officers in riot gear as they first set off explosives as a distraction, then knocked down Llovera’s fence and a surrounding wall, blew out the windows in his house, swarmed his family living room, and killed the approximately 100 or so chickens they found on the property. Caught in the fray, according to Llovera, was his family’s 11-month-old puppy, which Llovera claims was shot by police.”

Hudspeth County is a good place to hide from lawsuits. But let’s be honest it’s not Phoenix and it’s not New Orleans. There aren’t a lot of houses to run tanks through. A couple of years ago, I spent a day patrolling the desert with Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West and we ate burritos and drank cokes. West has that West Texas gift for telling a good yarn but that’s about all that’s happening on most days unless Willie Nelson’s bus rolled through Sierra Blanca again. (Yeah, he’s the sheriff who busted Willie last year for smoking a joint on his tour bus.)

West claims that Seagal’s “not in this for his celebrity or publicity.” In a statement he released to the media, West said of his newest deputy, “He’s like the rest of us that live down here — he has a sincere passion for his country and he wants to do more to help. Mr. Seagal brings a wealth of tactical experience and dedication as a peace officer. I believe he’ll make a significant contribution to this office and to our community.”

The line between policing and entertainment just keeps getting blurrier. The whole Steven Seagal lawman concept is becoming slightly tragic. Is he a cop playing an actor or an actor playing a cop? Whatever he is, maybe we should all stop watching before someone really gets hurt.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.