Tucson Citizen
Reconquista Isabel Garcia tries linking shootings to border watchdogs

Reconquista Garcia tries linking shootings to border watchdogs


Killers, survivors sought in shooting

Pinal County sheriff's officials have no clue to who killed 2 border crossers Wednesday but believe the gunmen drove off with 9 others.


Tucson Citizen
Oct. 18, 2002

The men who killed two illegal immigrants by firing into a group of 12 border crossers near Red Rock on Wednesday likely loaded the survivors into a vehicle and drove off with them, officials said.

Mike Minter, spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff's Department, said no tracks or blood trails were found yesterday leading away from the scene of the shooting, leading authorities to believe the survivors were shuttled away.

Minter said the incident was being investigated as a confrontation between competing coyotes, or "people smugglers."

"We are assuming at this point that the person who held them hostage was another coyote," he said.

"Whoever came in and fired the shots did it to show they meant business."

Authorities had not identified the shooters yesterday and no arrests have been made.

The identities of the dead men had not been determined by last night.

One man who escaped during the shooting was picked up by Pinal County sheriff's deputies.

Yesterday, investigators searched a 15-square-mile area for other survivors and clues they hoped would explain the shooting, which has outraged an advocate for humans rights for border crossers.

Authorities gave this account:

Twelve men were gathered Wednesday near a murky stock pond near Red Rock, a small community 32 miles northwest of Tucson, near Interstate 10.

The group was standing in the shade of a tree when two men pulled up about noon and opened fire, killing two of the border crossers.

One man who escaped the shooting was rescued by Pinal County sheriff's deputies and was to be transported to Tucson last night and put in the custody of the Mexican Consulate.

Mexican Consul Carlos Flores said the unidentified man, who was not injured in the shooting, would serve as a material witness in the shootings.

Though Minter could not provide a description of the vehicle used in the incident, he said preliminary reports indicate the two shooters were wearing camouflage and carrying rifles and handguns.

Shell casings found yesterday indicate that at least two types of firearms were used in the shooting, Minter said.

He said officials were examining them to determine the caliber and model of firearms used.

Flores said the group of illegal border crossers was held hostage for hours.

He said the attack has outraged and saddened consular officials.

"It's a heinous crime, a hideous crime," Flores said. "It is up to the American authorities to conduct the investigation and eventually commit those responsible."

While law enforcement authorities suspect the incident involved competing coyotes, one human rights group leader called the incident vigilantism.

Isabel Garcia, a Pima County public defender who is co-chair of Derechos Humanos, said her group began warning local authorities three years ago of vigilante actions against border crossers in Arizona.

"They've done everything to not have to say 'no' to these guys, and now look what we have," she said.

Garcia said her organization often fields complaints about armed citizens who've taken the enforcement of border policy into their own hands.

She said people have been stopped and held at gunpoint by private citizens on highways and on public and private lands.

And despite the complaints, Garcia asserted, law enforcement officials have chosen to ignore the groups, some of which now recruit members from other states.

"It's like a green light or license for all the racists across the country to come into Arizona and basically hunt Mexicans," Garcia said.

Not only are the actions dangerous, they're illegal.

"It's a state statute: No one is allowed to detain another human being unless they are law enforcement," Garcia said. "And if you point a weapon at them when you detain them, it's kidnapping."