SAN YSIDRO —
A car that tried to race through the San Ysidro border crossing Sunday — but was stopped when a federal agent opened fire — was carrying a group of Russian migrants suspected of trying to enter the U.S. illegally, officials said this week.
The car was one of three vehicles conveying a total of 26 people that approached the U.S-Mexico entry point about 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release.
Two of the vehicles were involved in the shooting — one slammed into the rear of the other — while the third was in a different lane of traffic, the federal agency said.
According to authorities, a Ford Expedition approached the primary inspection area as a customs officer crossed the lane, holding up his hand to stop vehicles, according to federal court documents. A black Mercedes-Benz sedan was directly behind the Ford SUV.
As the officer reached the other side of the lane, both the Ford and Mercedes drivers entered the inspection area “at a high rate of speed,” according to a sworn court filing and a news release.
The customs officer opened fire, shooting four times and striking the Mercedes sedan. The Mercedes rear-ended the SUV, which had come to an abrupt stop.
Two of the six people inside the Mercedes were bruised, but no one was hit by bullets. Two of the six people in the car were children, ages 10 and 14 years old.
The SUV was carrying 12 people, including five children, ranging from infancy to 5 years old. No one was reported to be hurt.
Agents pulled all 18 people out of the two vehicles. During questioning, some of them told agents they were hoping to live and work in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the court filing indicates.
Both drivers were arrested and charged in San Diego federal court with trying to sneak undocumented people into the country. At least five passengers were detained as material witnesses.
Just before the two vehicles tried to enter into the U.S., a Dodge Durango crossed into the U.S. first, in a different lane and with the normal flow of traffic. Customs officials said the Dodge SUV was carrying eight Russian citizens — including two children — without permission to be in the United States.
An agency spokesperson said that the people in the Durango were not related to the families in the other two vehicles, and no known connection has been determined. However, the spokesperson said that most smuggling and illegal entry attempts are coordinated by criminal organizations who often attempt multiple crossings simultaneously.
The federal agency did not provide further information about how the eight people inside the Dodge were detained.
San Diego police and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating the shooting.