By Jonathan Clark
Published: Monday, June 21, 2010 6:27 PM MST
A multi-agency federal investigation is under way after Border Patrol agents fired on suspected drug smugglers in Nogales last week, officials say.
Lloyd Easterling, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in Washington, D.C., told the Nogales International in a statement Friday that the agents were assaulted after they encountered drug smugglers west of the DeConcini Port of Entry.
“During the assault the agents discharged their firearms,” Easterling said. “The assailants fled back into Mexico and are not known to be injured at this time.”
Eleazar Alvarez, spokesman for the Public Security Secretariat in Nogales, Sonora, said Monday that his office was also unaware of any injuries stemming from the incident, and local news media in Sonora carried no reports of Border Patrol-related shootings or injuries.
Easterling said a “thorough, multi-agency investigation” into the shooting is under way, but he did not specify which agencies were involved.
Nogales Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkham said his department responded Thursday night to a report of shots fired by Border Patrol agents in the vicinity of International Street. However, when NPD officers arrived on the scene, a Border Patrol investigation was well under way, and the officers did not investigate.
As a result, Kirkham said, NPD could not confirm the details of the shooting.
Mario Escalante, spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, declined to provide additional information on Monday.
“We are unable to provide any information, due to the fact that it could possibly affect the investigation,” Escalante wrote in an e-mail response to the NI. “The only information available is what has been provided to you by Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs.”
The incident marks at least the third time this month that Border Patrol agents have fired on people along the U.S.-Mexico border after an alleged assault.
On June 7, a Border Patrol agent in El Paso fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican boy who allegedly threw rocks at him, raising the ire of the Mexican government, which called the shooting excessive. Two days earlier, agents shot and injured two suspected smugglers about 40 miles west of Nogales after the men reportedly assaulted them with rocks.