Armed attackers are taking aim at migrants crossing the border illegally near Ocotillo, according to a February 26 report from the U.S. Border Patrol. Ocotillo is located just east of San Diego County at the eastern base of the Laguna Mountains.
The first reported incident occurred on February 16, when a group traveling toward the U.S./Mexico border was confronted by two masked men carrying high-powered rifles, who were in the process of robbing the migrants when a second collection of gunmen looking for victims arrived. A firefight broke out between the two groups, during which the migrants fled across the border, where they were subsequently arrested by Border Patrol agents. One of the bandits was allegedly killed during the fight.
The next day, eight migrants were assaulted by a trio of gunmen in nearly the same spot as the first. After being held for several hours, the migrants claim, they overpowered the gunmen in a fight that left two of the hostage-takers dead and resulted in one of the would-be border-crossers being shot in the face. Taking a weapon from one of their attackers, the group again fled north across the border and dialed 911 for assistance. While the majority of the migrants was detained, the shooting victim was airlifted to a medical facility in Palm Springs.
"These unfortunate events highlight the inherent dangers of crossing the border illegally," said chief patrol agent Carla L. Provost of El Centro in a release.
Homeland Security and Mexican agents responded to the incidents with a weeklong investigation, which resulted in the recovery of a ski mask, an AK-47, a Ruger .223 assault rifle, and the bodies of two dead Mexican nationals. No suspects, however, are in custody.