SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Border Patrol agent attempting to apprehend a fleeing Mexican youth fired a shot across the international border, wounding the youth's 13-year-old brother, who was among several Mexicans allegedly throwing rocks at the agent and his partner, authorities said Friday.
Mexican Consul General Javier Escobar denounced the shooting Friday as "a brutal, unjustified action and a very serious violation of the Mexican border."
He said he will write to the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, demanding an investigation of the incident, which occurred Thursday afternoon, a quarter mile east of the San Ysidro port of entry.
In Serious Condition
The wounded boy, Humberto Carillo-Estrada of Tijuana, was reported in serious condition Friday at Mercy Hospital in San Diego. He was shot once in the back. The bullet entered below his left shoulder blade, broke a rib and lodged under the skin near his right armpit.
Humberto was shot by Agent Edward D. Cole, 34. Gene Smithburg, assistant chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol's San Ysidro sector, said Cole will remain on duty pending a report by the San Diego Police Department, which is investigating the incident.
Border Patrol officials refused to discuss the shooting further or to provide information on Cole's career.
According to San Diego Police Lt. Paul Ybarrondo, Cole and Border Patrol Agent Patrick Lonergan, 31, were driving down a dirt road that parallels the international border, when they spotted Humberto's 15-year-old brother, Eduardo, on U.S. soil. When Eduardo saw the agents, he ran and they gave chase. Eduardo was grabbed as he was scaling the chain-link fence to return to Mexico, Ybarrondo said.
The area is directly across from Colonia Libertad, a Tijuana slum.
As the agents tried to remove Eduardo from the border fence, a small crowd gathered and began throwing rocks and bottles, Ybarrondo said. Cole then drew his holstered .357 magnum revolver, fired two warning shots into the air and a third round through the fence into the crowd, which dispersed, Ybarrondo said.
The bullet struck Humberto, who Ybarrondo said was clutching rocks in each hand and was preparing to throw them at the agents.
A Mexican man, identified by witnesses as Francisco Corona Cardenas, 28, picked up Humberto and carried him through a hole in the border fence, demanding that the wounded boy be given medical attention. A helicopter was summoned, and the boy was flown to San Diego.
Corona Cardenas was allowed to return to Tijuana.
Ybarrondo said the older brother, Eduardo, was detained and later released. However, the boys' mother, Maria Elena Estrada, 36, said late Friday that Eduardo had yet to be returned to Tijuana.
Neither Cole nor his partner were injured in the incident.
Escobar, the consul general, said witnesses told his office that the shooting occurred after Eduardo had illegally hopped the border fence to buy a hamburger in San Ysidro.
Escobar said witnesses reported that when the agents apprehended Eduardo, they began hitting him. The boy's brother and an unidentified 16-year-old girl who were on the other side of the fence screamed, demanding that the agents stop, Escobar said.
"People started to gather, and then some rocks were thrown over the fence," Escobar said. "That's when the agent fired. There was no excuse for what he did."
Although U.S. officials and Escobar said the youth was shot while standing on the Mexican side of the border fence, reports in the Tijuana press included accounts by some witnesses who said Humberto was on U.S. soil when he was shot by Cole and managed to crawl through the fence into Mexico before he collapsed.
It was the second time in as many days that San Diego police have investigated border incidents.
On Wednesday, a task force of San Diego patrolmen and Border Patrol agents arrested four uniformed Tijuana policemen as illegal aliens after the four came across the border purportedly in search of bandits. The policemen were not charged and were released the next day.
Times Staff Writers Michael Fairley and H. G. Reza contributed to the story.