- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The country’s busiest border crossing reopened early today following a nine-hour closure after federal authorities shot and killed the driver of a sport utility vehicle headed for Mexico, officials said.

Border agents had pulled over the SUV after reports that the driver had picked up a group of suspected illegal immigrants yesterday afternoon. When the driver tried to veer back into traffic on Interstate 5, the officers fired, officials said.

The Mexican government has asked its consulate to investigate the shooting, which occurred about 50 feet north of the San Ysidro Port of Entry between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, Mexican presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said today.

Mr. Aguilar said it appeared that the driver was engaging in organized crime or people-smuggling and that the vehicle was trying to escape U.S. officials by crossing into Mexico.

It was not clear whether Mexican citizens were involved, he said. Five persons who had been in the SUV were taken into U.S. custody.

The driver, who was not identified, was pronounced dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. No other injuries were reported.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began following the black SUV after somebody reported seeing it pick up suspected illegal immigrants near the U.S. side of the Otay Mesa border crossing, said Lt. Kevin Rooney of San Diego Police Department.

As traffic backed up near the border, the vehicle stopped on the shoulder. When agents approached and tried to get the driver to step out of the SUV, the suspect “began to drive off and he veered hard to the left, trying to get back in traffic,” Lt. Rooney said. Two agents then opened fire, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the driver was armed. The passengers were not identified.

Anna Valderrama of Tijuana, Mexico, who was about four vehicles back when the shooting occurred, said she was stuck in her car for more than two hours.

“I was going to eat with my family,” said Miss Valderrama. “I feel desperate to go home.”

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