The acting sector chief for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Tucson said the FBI is leading the investigation into an agent-involved shooting that left one man wounded.
The FBI is investigating a shootout between two Border Patrol agents and a motorist Wednesday at a checkpoint north of Tombstone.
The motorist, identified as Gary Smith, 76, of Tombstone, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Following standard policy, the two Border Patrol agents were placed on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted, according to Felix Chavez, the Border Patrol’s acting chief patrol agent for the Tucson sector.
Chavez, at a news conference Thursday, said Smith was driving north on State Route 80 in a 2008 black Dodge Dakota when he barreled into the checkpoint. The checkpoint, at the intersection of state routes 80 and 82, had closed temporarily because of high winds.
“The driver and sole occupant began shooting out of the window at agents working at the checkpoint,” Chavez said. “The agents, fearing for their lives, immediately returned fire, striking the driver once in the upper left arm, stopping the assault.”
After treating Smith at the scene, paramedics transported him via helicopter to a Tucson hospital, where he remained in custody and recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, Chavez said.
Chavez said he had not been briefed on whether words were exchanged between the agents and Smith before Smith opened fire, or if there was any motive behind the shooting.
“We can confirm there were two weapons that the suspect had in his possession,” Chavez said.
A spokeswoman for the FBI said agents responded Wednesday afternoon, but declined to provide additional details.
The FBI said, in investigating the incident, it would work with the Tombstone Marshal’s Office, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which oversees agents’ compliance and conduct.
Since Oct. 1, the number of assaults on Border Patrol agents nationwide has more than doubled compared to the same time last year, according to CBP statistics.
At the same time, use of force cases have also increased slightly, including at least 10 instances in which agents used their firearms.
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