Desert ambush: Was it vigilantes?

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Desert ambush: Was it vigilantes?

CREATED Apr 13, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two illegal border crossers were shot and killed this week in rural Pima County.
Authorities say they were ambushed by armed people in camouflage.
No one has been arrested and now the ambush is stirring up talk of vigilantes.

It was the night of Easter, in a desolate slice of desert near Eloy, when a pick-up smuggling illegal immigrants came under attack.
People dressed in camouflage, and carrying rifles, shouted halt, in Spanish.  They fired on the truck, and two of the immigrants died.
The crime scene is just barely in Pima County, so it's a case for the Pima County Sheriff's department.
Now, Deedee Garcia-Blase, with a Latina group called the National Tequila Party is calling for Federal authorities to get involved, with a letter to the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department.
"...before things escalate into a possible race war.  And we want to prevent that. I'm afraid that possible vigilante activity may escalate between two countries who we have very good trade agreements with."
Garcia-Blase says she has no evidence to back up her fears of vigilante action.  But there was the recent case of Shawna Forde, convicted of two murders in connection with a home invasion of someone she suspected of being a drug dealer.  She had been trying to raise money to support her own border security group.
Five years ago, there were two cases of fatal attacks in Pima County on truckloads of immigrants.   In one of those cases, Deputies were able to get send two Mexican Nationals to prison.  They had been, not vigilantes but what's called a rip crew, border bandits, who target other smugglers, usually hoping to steal drug loads.

As a result of those cases, the Sheriff's Department changed its operations to put more enforcement out in the desert.

Deputy Dawn Barkman says, "In April of that year, we created the Border Crimes unit and basically those two units went out into the desert, into the remote areas to try to stop the violent activity from the criminal activity that was going on."

KGUN9 News has checked with the FBI.  So far, they have not received any orders to become involved in the case.