Pinal Co. Deputies: Border bandits behind deadly shooting

Pinal Co. Deputies: Border bandits behind deadly shooting

CREATED Apr 15, 2011

Reporter: Steve Nunez
Web Producer: Layla Tang

STANFIELD, Ariz. (KGUN-TV) - One person is dead and another is seriously injured after border bandits opened fire on a group of illegal immigrants in Pinal County.

The group of about 15 people came from Mexico and were walking through desert. At about 2:00 a.m. Thursday, they stopped near a truck stop along Interstate 8 near the town of Stanfield for rest.

According to Pinal County Sheriff's Deputies, another group of 13 individuals approached the resting group and opened fire. One of the victims told deputies he ran through the desert towards the rest area and called his daughter in Phoenix. The daughter in turn called 911 to report the shooting.

Officers found the 35-year-old man at an Interstate 8 rest stop near mile post 150. He was shot in the stomach, but survived after undergoing emergency surgery in Phoenix.

Pinal County Sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents then searched the area for more victims. That's when they found the body of a second man who already died from his wounds.

According to investigators, evidence at the scene leads them to believe the shootings involve drug trafficking and rip crews. While searching for more victims and the drug smugglers, deputies found a known stash house located in Stanfield, about 10 miles from the shooting scene.

Investigators did not find drugs there, but they detained six men for questioning to try to get more information out of them. They believe all are illegal immigrants.

According to deputies, the shooting took place near Antelope Peak, which is a well-known smuggling route used by the cartels for drug and human trafficking.  It's near the same area where former Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louis Puroll was shot almost a year ago. It's also near the area where deputies found a car that was made to look like a police cruiser, purportedly used by border bandits to rip off other groups of drug smugglers.

And federal agents blamed border bandits for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was shot and killed near Rio Rico in December 2010.