The San Diego Police Department identified Travis James Eckstein, 23, as the American Citizen U.S. Customs and Border Protection said started a gun battle at the San Ysidro Port of Entry Monday night.
According to CBP two Chinese citizens were found in the rear of Eckstein’s truck. Officials identified the men aged 18 and 27, with no legal status to enter the U.S.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 7, Eckstein’s girlfriend Cadence Beavers, 18, said her boyfriend wasn’t the kind person who would want to hurt anyone. She also said he battled depression.
“Everyone loved him, he was the light of the room he was so smart and so helpful, so hardworking,” Beavers said. “He loved to work. Everything he did was around work, and he was such a hard worker.”
Beavers said the couple met as neighbors in her hometown of Cherry Valley in Riverside County.
“He was always looking for an adventure, places to go and people to see and I’m so grateful he got to do that and experience that the last months of his life,” said Beavers.
Eckstein’s mother Donna Anderson Kniss posted a tribute about her son on Facebook. In it she wrote “Travis has struggled for many years with depression and was recently diagnosed as bipolar. He also had many concussions, his brain didn’t work or think like a normal person.”
“Travis did battle with depression, a lot of people our age do,” said Beavers. “He had an angel and a devil on his shoulder at all times. He always had a battle like that, but he was larger than life.”
Shots were fired after Eckstein, driving northbound, failed to stop for an inspection at the border crossing located south of San Diego, CBP confirmed.
“He knows how to shoot a gun, he could’ve hurt someone but he chose not to,” Beavers said.
Beavers said unfortunately Eckstein panicked and his actions cost him his life.
“That’s when he knew he was done for, he thought he’d rather die than go to jail,” she said. “Three shots were his, if you look at the pictures of the vehicle the police blew up my boyfriend and they were doing their job, I’m not upset.”
No one else was injured during the shooting.
“I know he could’ve hurt someone but he didn’t,” she said. “He just chose suicide by cop and I can’t blame him, as much as I wish he was here with me.”