The U.S. Border Patrol says one of its agents has been wounded in a shooting in southern Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border. A Border Patrol statement says the agent was taken to a hospital early Tuesday for treatment.
The statement says the shooting happened south of the community Arivaca at 4:30 a.m. and that several people referred to as “subjects” were taken into custody.
CBS News has learned that the agent was shot several times as he may have been patrolling the area alone — which sometimes happens because of limited resources. Authorities said the agent was shot by “bad guys” and clarified that the agent didn’t shoot himself and was not shot by a rancher nearby.
Officials also said the area is known for migrant and drug smuggling and was featured on “Cartel Land.”
The statement says the FBI and the Office of Professional Responsibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are investigating.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the agent survived the shooting.
Arivaca is southwest of Tucson and about 10 miles from the border.
Jim Chilton, a fifth-generation Arizona cattleman who runs the 50,000-acre ranch, told The Associated Press in an interview that the Border Patrol sent him an email saying the agent was alone when he was wounded on the ranch and was struck in the leg and the hand.
Several bullets also struck the agent’s protective vest, which probably saved his life, Chilton said.
“Without it, he probably would not be with us today,” said the rancher, who is a well-known Arizona backer of President Trump’s efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There’s no wall at the boundary. It is just a four post cattle fence that anyone can easily crawl under. We need to close up that gap in the border fence and station more agents in forward positions along the border,” Chilton told CBS affiliate KOLD-TV. There are great agents here, but they are in Tucson. You wouldn’t have a football team line up 10 yards from the line of scrimmage would you?”
The Border Patrol official who the rancher said wrote the email, Lisa A. Reed, did not immediately respond to an email seeking confirmation of the details Chilton provided. Border Patrol spokesman Chris Sullivan declined to comment.
About 200 trails meander over Chilton’s ranch and he said the area where the shooting happened is along the most traveled trail. One 14-mile side of his ranch is separated from Mexico by a four-strand wire fence.
“We have drug runners coming through our ranch and this has become a very dangerous situation,” Chilton said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, reports hundreds of assaults on its law enforcement personnel across the United State each year, but they rarely involve agents getting hit by bullets.
During the U.S. fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017, there were 786 assaults on the Border Patrol agents nationwide and 93 in the Tucson Sector that includes Arivaca area, the agency has said.
Some cases involved people on the Mexican side of the border throwing rocks at agents on the U.S. side, or would-be smugglers firing at agents and missing as the smugglers try to get away from the agents.
Agents with the Tucson Sector Border Patrol arrested a 21-year-old U.S. citizen near Amado, Arizona, last Christmas Eve after he fired at them during a high-speed chase that ended when he lost control of the vehicle and rolled over. He was transporting two migrants in the U.S. without authorization.
Two teen boys were arrested last year in the shooting of a Border Patrol vehicle south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The agent inside was not hurt.
In December 2010, agent Brian A. Terry was shot and killed near Rio Rico, Arizona, while trying to arrest a group of armed people who had been preying on migrants.
Agent Robert Rosas was shot and killed in an ambush on patrol along the Mexico border near Campo, California in July 2009, and Agent Alexander S. Kirpnick was shot and killed as he and his partner tried to arrest a group of drug smugglers just north of the Mexican border in Arizona in June 1998.