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Border Agent Quits Over Shooting

December 14, 1999

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A Border Patrol agent who used a pellet gun to sink a raft carrying three illegal immigrants across a canal has agreed to quit the agency to avoid criminal prosecution.

Gary S. Whitfield, 32, admitted that he fired a pellet pistol at the raft in May and tried to cover it up by throwing the gun into the New River, his attorney and federal officials said Monday.

A witness told authorities that two immigrants swam to safety, but the third did not make it across. However, no body was ever found in the All-American Canal, which runs along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Whitfield acknowledged violating Border Patrol policy against shooting at illegal immigrants trying to cross the border, but a criminal conviction was unlikely since there was no evidence that anyone was injured, said his attorney, Everett Bobbitt.

However, federal officials said they had evidence that Whitfield had bought the gun the day before the shooting and bragged to other agents that he intended to ``get a raft″ in the canal.

As part of the agreement, Whitfield, who has been on administrative duty at the Calexico station since the May 14 shooting, must quit the Border Patrol. He cannot apply to any law enforcement agency for four years.

Whitfield, who resigned Friday, had worked for the Border Patrol for about 2 1/2 years and received a salary of about $50,000, with overtime.

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