Thursday, September 8, 2011

Encounter between US hunters, Mexican police under investigation

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

An emergency call about armed men along the Rio Grande sparked the cross- border encounter between Mexican federal police and U.S. hunters in the Lower Valley last week, a Mexico federal police spokesman said Wednesday.

The incident between hunters on the U.S. river levee and Mexican federal police occurred a week ago today near the Zaragoza Bridge on the first day of dove hunting season.

Federal police spokesman José Ramón Salinas denied that Mexican officers crossed the border as reported by U.S. Border Patrol officials.

Salinas said the episode started after someone called the emergency call center in Juárez to report "armed people on the border" and officers were dispatched to the scene.

"The federal police officers learned it was the day of the dove (hunt), and it was over," Salinas said. "They saw they (the hunters) were on the U.S. side, and they did not cross to the United States.

"I don't know where they got this that they crossed into the U.S. side. As you know, the river is part of Mexico and the United States," Salinas said.

A hunter, who asked that his name not be published for safety reasons because he regularly visits Juárez, said it appeared that a shot was fired from the Mexican side before the arrival of the federal police.

"I saw the actual rifle round hit between (two of his friends) and pop up dirt. My friend said, 'Did you do that?' We looked at the trajectory and it looked like it came from Mexico," he said.
He and his friend.

took cover behind a vehicle. He said the situation intensified when Mexican police arrived, pointing assault rifles and yelling at another group of hunters downriver.

Mexican police "were asking what they were doing there. They were yelling, 'Put down your weapons' or something. I couldn't hear exactly what they were saying. We were too far away," the hunter said.

He saw Mexican officers walk down the levee but was unable to see whether they crossed the international boundary in the middle of the river.

Arriving at the scene, Border Patrol agents saw Mexican police returning to Mexico after an incursion to the U.S. side, said a Border Patrol spokesman. An investigation continues.

During hunting season, the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission opens certain spots to hunters along the Rio Grande levee in El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

After last week's incident, U.S. Customs and Border Protection decided to restrict access to daylight hours to the river levee near the Zaragoza Bridge. Hunting season continues through Oct. 23 and then from Dec. 23 to Jan. 8.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at; 546-6102.


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