TUCSON, Ariz. (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — Border Patrol agents in Arizona were reportedly fired upon by a Mexican military helicopter that traveled across the border.
Mexican authorities were conducting a drug interdiction operation when the incident happened early Thursday morning on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. The Mexican chopper fired at the agents and then flew back into Mexico.
However, Mexican authorities have denied shooting at agents and say they were under attack during a mission to find smugglers on the border.
Tomás Zerón, the director of the Mexican attorney general’s office investigative office, said that Mexican military and federal police who were conducting an operation on a ranch in Altar, Sonora, were shot at by criminals. Mexican authorities never fired any weapons and in fact never crossed into the U.S. side of the border, he said.
“The incident occurred after midnight and before 6 a.m. Helicopter flew into the U.S. and fired on two U.S. Border Patrol agents,” Del Cueto said in a statement to KVOA. “The incident occurred west of the San Miguel Gate on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. The agents were unharmed. The helicopter went back into Mexico. Mexico then contacted U.S. authorities and apologized for the incident.”
Del Cueto said four agents were in a marked patrol vehicle when they were shot at.
“They could say they didn’t fire at the agents intentionally. But for them to say that they were no shots fired within the United States, toward the United States Border Patrol, is a lie. They got in contact with our managers and apologized for the incident,” Del Cueto said.
Andy Adame, Border Patrol spokesperson, said that Mexican authorities fired two shots at the border agents.
“Two shots were fired from the helicopter but no injuries or damage to U.S. property were reported,” Adame told KVOA.
The Mexican helicopter was 15 yards from the border agents when they were came under fire, Del Cueto said. He’s also concerned that Tucson sector officials didn’t notify the next shift of border agents that there had been a shooting, he said.
“… I think our managers within the area should have definitely informed the oncoming shift this had happened. We’re always on high alert, but I think it would raise a fear level for our agents,” del Cueto said.
Sebastián Galván, a spokesman for the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, said the office was gathering information but did not have any details yet.
This incident was not the first one in which the Mexican military has veered across the international boundary.
In January, U.S. border agents confronted two heavily armed Mexican soldiers who crossed 50 yards inside Arizona, the Los Angeles Times reported. A standoff ensued, but nobody was hurt.
In 2011, more than 30 uniformed Mexican soldiers in military vehicles crossed the Rio Grande without authorization in an incident that was believed to be inadvertent.
The incident is under investigation.
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