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Report: Agent Admits Firing at Raft

May 18, 1999

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Border Patrol agent admitted firing a pellet gun at a rubber raft carrying three illegal immigrants across a canal, dumping them into the water, according to an internal report obtain by The Associated Press Monday.

Only two were seen back on shore early Friday. The third person could have returned to Mexico or sneaked into the United States, but may also have drowned.

A ``significant incident report″ contained a brief outline of the alleged firing four miles west of Calexico, Mexico.

The report stated that the agent, who was not named, fired three times and then threw the rifle into the New River. The agent has been placed on administrative leave.

The report came from a woman who was caught Friday trying to cross into the United States. She told authorities she saw an agent fire a pellet gun at the raft, which flipped when the three passengers shifted. She said two made it to the concrete bank of the irrigation canal.

Rita Vargas, Mexico’s consul for the region, said the Border Patrol sector chief, Tom Wacker, told her on Friday that the agent had admitted firing the pellet gun at the raft.

The FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, which is an internal affairs division for the Border Patrol, were investigating.

The Board Patrol referred all inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which declined comment.

Eight people have drowned so far this year trying to cross the canal, a heavily used route for illegal immigrants. U.S. officials have installed bright, stadium-style lights and motion detectors at several sections of the waterway to discourage crossings.

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