[From The Brownsville Herald Jan. 5, 2006]
Shootings against Border Patrol escalating
By Sara Inés Calderón
The Brownsville Herald
More than two dozen shots were fired at Border Patrol agents from across the Rio Grande on Friday and Wednesday, marking a large increase in such shootings in this sector of the border, an agency official said.
In fiscal year 2005, there were a total of six shootings, said Julio Salinas, spokesman for the Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol.
The shootings reported Friday and Wednesday are the sixth and seventh shootings since fiscal year began Oct. 1, officials said.
The increase in violence against agents is likely due to the effectiveness of the patrol’s enforcement, he said. The smugglers react violently to the Border Patrol’s presence, Salinas said.
“We believe it is due to operations, due to the fact that we are a threat to the narcotic or alien smugglers, and that is one of the ways they react,” he said.
On Wednesday about 7:30 p.m., about 10 shots were fired at the Border Patrol from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near Veteran’s International Bridge at Los Tomates, said Roy Cervantes, a spokesman for the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Border Patrol.
A Border Patrol vehicle was hit, but no one was injured, he said.
At about 7 p.m. on Friday, two Border Patrol boats carrying four agents were patrolling upriver from the Veteran’s bridge when 20 to 25 shots were fired at them from the Mexican side of the river, Salinas said.
The agents did not return fire during the shooting which was about a 1½ miles from Wednesday’s incident, and none of the four agents were hurt, he said. One of the boats was hit five times, he said.
“We don’t believe that this is a random shooting,” Salinas said. “Whoever did the shooting had to have the training or had some knowledge of how to use a firearm, because to be able to hit the boat, a moving target, five times in the cover of darkness is very difficult.”
The shooters allowed the first boat to go by with no shots fired and then fired upon the second boat, Salinas said.
Shooters on the Mexican side of the border were most likely involved in alien or drug smuggling, Salinas said.
Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said his office is investigating the attack.
“We feel that perhaps these people were narcotic traffickers, and when they saw the Border Patrol, it upset their operation,” Lucio said.
The FBI is also studying the incident.
“We’re coordinating with Mexican authorities to determine who may have been the perpetrators,” said Jorge Cisneros, spokesman for the FBI in McAllen.
“The Border Patrol has had a rash of incidents here along the border,” he said. “It is obviously a big concern, since it’s escalating.”
The seven shootings involving the Border Patrol during fiscal year 2006 began are all currently still under investigation, Cisneros said.