Published May 19, 2006
SAN DIEGO – The nation's busiest border crossing reopened early Friday after being shut down for nine hours when federal authorities shot and killed the driver of a vehicle headed for Mexico, officials said.
One passenger in the vehicle was arrested on smuggling charges after the shooting.
Four others were illegal immigrants who told investigators they had paid someone to pick them up, San Diego police said in a statement. The four were being processed Friday for deportation, Lt. Jeff Sferra said.
The Mexican government, meanwhile, asked its consulate to investigate the incident.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had started following the driver's black SUV Thursday afternoon after somebody reported seeing it pick up suspected illegal immigrants near the U.S. side of the Otay Mesa border crossing, said Lt. Kevin Rooney of San Diego Police Department.
Border Patrol officers in an unmarked vehicle followed it for a few miles. When the SUV turned toward the San Ysidro Port of Entry that connects Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, other agents blocked the southbound lanes at the border.
As traffic backed up, the suspect vehicle stopped on the shoulder about 50 feet north of the crossing. The agents approached and tried to get the driver to step out of the SUV. When the driver refused, agents smashed the drivers' side window with a baton.
At that point, the suspect "accelerated and nearly pinned an agent standing next to the vehicle," Sferra said. Two agents then opened fire.
Shots fired by a Border Patrol agent struck the driver, Sferra confirmed. He said he was not aware of any attempt to shoot at the tires before the driver was shot.
The 22-year-old driver, whose identity has not been released, died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. It wasn't immediately clear if the driver was armed.
The five passengers, whose identities were not released, were unharmed.
In Mexico, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said it appeared the driver was engaging in organized crime or people smuggling, and that the vehicle was trying to escape U.S. officials by crossing into Mexico.