EL PASO, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents shot a man described as a suspected drug smuggler in the New Mexico desert Thursday night, federal officials said Friday.
Doug Mosier, a Border Patrol spokesman in El Paso, said agents were trying to stop a pickup truck headed north along a desert ranch road about 11 p.m. Thursday night, when the driver ran over an agent.
At least one other agent at the scene opened fire, hitting the driver at least once.
Following the shooting, Mosier said, the driver of the truck crashed the vehicle along N.M. 9, about 25 miles west of the border crossing at Santa Teresa, about 14 miles west of El Paso.
The agent and the driver, neither of whom have been identified, were both taken to a hospital in El Paso. Mosier said the agent suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.
No details on the driver's condition were available Friday.
The truck is believed to have crossed the border along a patch of rough desert littered with scrub brush and little else. Mosier said there are about 48 miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing in the area, though it is unclear exactly where the driver of the truck came across the border.
Todd Hulsey, an FBI spokesman in Albuquerque, said agents from the El Paso office were at the remote scene overnight and the FBI's field office in Las Cruces is investigating the alleged assault on the agent.
The Las Cruces FBI office was was writing an affidavit for a federal arrest warrant charging the driver with assaulting a federal officer and drug trafficking, he said.
The FBI does not know who the driver is because he carried no identification, but believe he is a Mexican national, Hulsey said.
The truck contained 1,500 pounds of marijuana, wrapped in 25-pound bundles that filled the interior of the Ford pickup "so that only one human being could fit inside of it," Hulsey said.
Mosier said Thursday night's incident illustrates the danger agents face along remote stretches of the border.
"It is always a dangerous formula when you have a smuggling episode and desperation on the part of suspected smugglers," he said.
It's not the first time an agent has been run over while trying to stop a vehicle in the desert.
Agent Luis Aguilar was working in southeastern California's Imperial Sand Dunes last January when he was hit and killed by a suspected marijuana smuggler. Jesus Navarro Montes was arrested earlier this month in Mexico near Zihuatenejo in an operation coordinated with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service. The U.S. government is seeking his extradition on drug charges.