Traffic started flowing again Wednesday, after an attempt to smuggle 78 suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico ended in a dramatic gun battle at the busiest border crossing in the nation. Four people were injured in the shootout, including an innocent bystander.
Federal agents stopped three vans at the San Ysidro port of entry Tuesday afternoon, but the drivers tried to storm past border inspectors, police said. ICE and Border Protection agents opened fire to try and stop them.
“I heard three shots then everyone dived and looked over there,” Mike Areta said.
Witnesses described the scene as frightening and chaotic.
“I was in the same direction where the officer was holding the gun so I went down to the floor,” Ruben Lopez said.
Officers swarmed all three vans.
“I saw the one officer standing there, holding one guy in a white shirt laying behind a car hiding,” Areta said.
The suspects were not armed. Agents said they opened fire because they felt like they were in danger, according to police.
“It was kind surprising to me that they fired on them right there with all the cars around there,” Michael Casillas said.
A 31-year-old suspect and a 42-year-old suspect suffered gunshot wounds. A third suspect suffered a head injury and cuts as a result of the crash. A fourth person, an innocent bystander, complained of pain and was taken to a hospital for treatment after his truck was rear ended by one of the vans.
It's a miracle no one else was injured at the height of rush hour, investigators said.
Two of the three van drivers were arrested. The third driver fled back into Mexico. A total of 78 suspected undocumented people were detained in the vans.