PHOENIX — A U.S. Border Patrol agent was wounded in a shooting on an Arizona ranch near the U.S.-Mexico border before dawn Tuesday in a remote area known for drug and migrant smuggling, the agency and the cattleman who owns the property said.
The agent was taken to a hospital after the 4:30 a.m. shooting near the community of Arivaca and several people were detained, a Border Patrol Statement said, providing no information on the agent’s injuries or the circumstances of the shooting.
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 Donald Trump’s efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
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.
Arivaca is southwest of Tucson and about 10 miles from the border.
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.