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California and the West

Probe Urged in Border Shooting of Immigrant

March 23, 2000|KEN ELLINGWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Law enforcement authorities were looking into a report Wednesday that an illegal Mexican immigrant was shot and wounded by assailants on the U.S. side while crossing with a group in rural east San Diego County.

The woman, identified by Mexican consular officials as Elsa Maria Santos Dominguez, turned up in Mexico and was being treated in a Tecate hospital for a gunshot wound to the arm.

The Mexican Consulate in San Diego asked county authorities for a careful investigation. A spokesman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said the shooting was reported about 10:20 p.m. Monday by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The agent told a sheriff's dispatcher that shots were reported fired after 13 immigrants traversing near the community of Boulevard encountered a group of unidentified men gathered around a Ford Bronco, said sheriff's spokesman Ron Reina.

Reina said a deputy who went to the scene found no witnesses or vehicle.

Santos, identified in Mexican news reports as a 34-year-old Chiapas native, was found near the border in Mexico by Mexican authorities.

She told reporters that her group was being led by immigrant smugglers and was to be picked up at Interstate 8. She said two men, who appeared to be drinking, fired at the group. It was unclear whether anyone else was injured.

Reina said crimes against immigrants in San Diego's back country are reported sporadically. "It might not always be a shooting, but there's a variety of crime," he said.

Immigrants crossing illegally are often reluctant to report assaults, robberies and other crimes on the U.S. side to police for fear of being deported. The rural region has witnessed an increase in illegal crossings as U.S. government border enforcement has tightened to the west in San Diego.

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