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Mexico probing border shooting probe

June 27, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

MEXICALI — The Baja California attorney general's office will take over the investigation of a shooting that involved 23 undocumented immigrants trying to cross into the U.S.

The announcement came after Raul Ramirez Baena, attorney general of Baja California, confirmed the accuracy of allegations by some of the immigrants pointing to Mexican army members as the shooters.

The investigation, initially conducted by Imperial County Sheriff's Office investigators, confirmed the incident was initiated in Mexican territory, so it will be turned over to Mexican authorities.

Sheriff's Sgt. Manuel Garcia said the FBI, which had been looking into the incident, is no longer involved in the investigation.


Around 12:30 a.m. June 13, a group of immigrants was attempting to cross into the U.S. north of Mount Signal and south of Highway 98. While crossing into the U.S. in a sports-utility vehicle, the group were spotted by another vehicle, reported by the immigrants to be a Mexican army vehicle.

Those in the apparent Army vehicle tried to stop the SUV by flashing headlights, but the SUV driver did not stop. The assailants then opened fire on the vehicle, injuring three of the immigrants.

Although it had been shot eight to 10 times, according to Baena, the vehicle still was driven into the U.S., only to be found by U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Baena said agents immediately gave the injured immigrants, three Salvadoran men, first aid and rushed them to a hospital.

Baena said Mexican authorities found three 7.62 caliber castings and a 7.62 bullet about three miles south of the U.S. border. He said 7.62 caliber bullets are used exclusively by the Mexican army.

He concluded none of the 23 immigrants — four Mexicans, one Ecuadorian and 18 Salvadorans — was carrying any weapon or shot at anyone. Baena was referring to earlier reports the immigrants shot at the soldiers first.

He added the immigrants are sure it was Mexican soldiers who shot at them. According to Baena, the driver of the SUV, who hasn't been identified, drove so close to the military vehicle both drivers were able to see the other's face. He said that is why the immigrants are positive it was soldiers who shot at them.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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