Ex-Arizona governor, 96, detained at checkpoint in sweltering heat

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A 96-year-old former governor of Arizona said on Thursday he was stopped and detained by Border Patrol agents in triple-digit heat last month after the vehicle he was traveling in triggered a radiation sensor.

Raul Castro, who made history in 1974 when he became the state’s first and only Mexican-American governor, was stopped by agents at a checkpoint on a U.S. highway north of Nogales, Arizona, on June 12 as he was being driven to a lunch in Tucson to celebrate his birthday.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said Castro was stopped after equipment at a Border Patrol checkpoint “discovered a possible trace of radiation” on him.

“As required by policy, agents must identify and resolve all sources of radiation, regardless of the circumstances. In this instance, CBP agents were able to identify and resolve the source of the radiation reading,” it said in a statement.

Castro said he had undergone medical tests on his pacemaker the previous day, which had likely caused the sensor to go off. He said he was stopped and questioned under the sun for 35 to 40 minutes. The Border Patrol put the delay at 10 minutes and said it regretted “any inconvenience the delay may have caused.”

“There was a lot of questioning and the sun was coming down pretty hard and very hot. It was uncomfortable. I showed them some ID and they still (continued) questioning me,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“Well I know that they have to work and they do a duty, but I think once I identified myself and I told them it was my birthday and I was running late ... they could (have been) a little bit more respectful,” he added.

National Weather Service records show temperatures peaked at over 100 Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) in Tucson that day.

His wife, Patricia Castro, said the family would not lodge a formal complaint.

Born in Cananea, Mexico, Castro became a U.S. citizen in 1939. He said he did not believe the stop “had anything to do with being Hispanic. The medical tests I had the day before might have had an effect on it.”

After completing two years of his four-year term as governor, Castro, a Democrat, was tapped to be ambassador to Argentina from 1977 to 1980. He had previously served as the envoy to El Salvador and Bolivia in the 1960s.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker