Rival smugglers may have killed 2 crossers

Tucson Citizen
Oct. 23, 2002

Investigators now believe that a rival group of people smugglers may be responsible for the shooting deaths of two undocumented border crossers near Red Rock last week.

Mike Minter, spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff's Department, said the investigation into the case has begun to "lean heavily" toward looking at competing groups of people smugglers for possible leads in the case.

"At this time, we are looking at competing groups of people who illegally transport undocumented aliens," Minter said.

The shootings occurred Oct. 16 near the community of Red Rock, alongside Interstate 10, 32 miles northwest of Tucson.

Officials say two men opened fire on a group of illegal border crossers resting in the shade near a stock pond in Red Rock.

Two were killed.

The only tracks leading from the scene that investigators found were of the vehicle used by the suspected gunmen, leading officials to believe at least nine people in the group were taken from the scene by the shooters.

Officials have not released a description of the vehicle.

Minter said witnesses told authorities the two camouflage-clad shooters who killed the men were Hispanic.

Members of groups that have been combing the border corridors in Arizona used by illegal immigrants have been known to dress in clothing resembling military uniforms.

Shell casings at the scene indicated the shooters were carrying handguns and rifles.

Derechos Humanos, a Tucson-area group that advocates for the rights of border crossers, suggested this week that the slayings were by vigilantes.

Minter said officials have identified one of the slain men as Mexican but could not release his name because his family had not been notified.

The other man killed in the incident has not been identified.

A witness is in custody. Officials would not release details of an interview conducted with the 32-year-old man.

The man was interviewed last week and remains in the custody of the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, said Dulce Mascareno, consulate spokesman.

Consulate officials have said the man will be a material witness if the shooters are arrested.

Mascareno directed all other questions to the Pinal County Sheriff's Department.

An investigation into the incident is continuing.