Border agents report witnessing gunfire

The Associated Press
Friday October 27, 2000

SAN DIEGO — Border Patrol agents reported hearing shots fired when 10 uniformed men bearing rifles came onto U.S. soil in a canyon east of San Diego. 

Border Patrol officials said the incident occurred Tuesday about four miles east of the Otay Mesa border crossing. 

Agents said the uniform wearing intruders came within 20 yards of the U.S. officers before turning and walking back to Mexico, said Merv Mason, a Border Patrol spokesman in San Diego. 

They did not identify themselves nor could agents recognize any distinguishing markings on their uniforms. 

Although Border Patrol agents said they took cover and radioed for help when they heard shots, a spokesman for the Mexican Consulate in San Diego said there were no shots fired. 

“There has been confusion,” said Roberto Gonzalez. “There were no shots.” 

Nevertheless a Border Patrol helicopter was sent to retrieve the U.S. agents. No one was injured. 

Mason said U.S. officials were consulting with Mexican authorities to determine who the men were and why they crossed.  

They reportedly entered near Otay Mountain in a rural zone where the border is marked by a knee-high fence to bar vehicles from entering the United States illegally. 

Gonzalez was still unsure if any group had entered the U.S territory, saying rugged terrain in that area makes it hard to determine where the border lies. 

U.S. officials say the incident is one of several in which Mexican soldiers and agents have strayed into the United States, mainly along sections where official border markers are sparse. 

Mexican authorities have also accused U.S. border agents of chasing suspected illegal immigrants onto Mexican soil. 

The countries are working to identify “critical” border sections and improve marking by installing poles with flashing lights and coated in reflective paint.