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Mexican man dead after incident involving Border Patrol in rugged terrain near Douglas

A Mexican man was killed during an incident involving a Border Patrol agent on Saturday night in rugged terrain northeast of Douglas, Ariz., authorities said.

The Cochise County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death.

Around 10 p.m. Saturday, CCSO was alerted to the incident involving a BP agent and a group of migrants about one mile north of milepost 30 on East Geronimo Trail, about 30 miles northeast of Douglas, said Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

Noting that the "investigation is in the preliminary stage," CCSO initially stated that "early indications are that one male subject, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, was fatally wounded by a Border Patrol agent," but later edited that post on social media, removing that part of their account.

Largely a dirt trail that connects Douglas to ranches along the U.S.-Mexico border, Geronimo Trail begins near the Douglas airport and then runs east for about 15 miles along the border toward the Slaughter Ranch. There it heads northeast into the increasingly rugged Peloncillo Mountains, and toward the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Capas said Border Patrol officials initially reported that a man was seriously injured in the rugged mountains near Skeleton Canyon, and that several other people, suspected of being in the U.S. without authorization, had been detained by agents. An emergency medical technician with Border Patrol attended to the wounded man, but "he ultimately "succumbed to his injuries," Capas said.

Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection—Border Patrol's parent agency—said Sunday that the incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. when "there was an incident involving a serious injury to an individual northeast of Douglas, Ariz., in the Peloncillo Mountains."

Neither agency released details about how the man was hurt.

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Capas said that deputies and detectives with CCSO responded to the incident, but they delayed recovering the man's body until Sunday morning to "allow for the safety of detectives" and other law enforcement personnel. Along with CCSO, a helicopter from the Arizona Department of Public Safety was brought in to help officials access the rugged terrain, and "process the scene." 

The man's body was airlifted from the incident's location and later transported to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office as part of the investigation, Capas said.

Capas said Sunday evening that CCSO deputies had " just cleared the scene," and the investigation is ongoing. Officials contacted the Mexican Consulate about the incident, and were working to identify the man who was killed, and notify his next of kin, she said.

Along with CCSO, the incident will be reviewed by the Office of the Inspector General with the Department of Homeland Security, CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility.

In 2016, a Border Patrol agent shot and seriously wounded a man near Skeleton Canyon after he fled from a truck carrying about 2,300 pounds of marijuana in a remote area east of the hamlet of Apache in eastern Arizona. 

Officials said following that incident that Border Patrol agents were tracking two men after they abandoned the truck when it got stuck in the mud.

One agent managed to chase the man down on foot, and they struggled, CBP said. At some point, the agent fired his pistol shooting and seriously wounding the man. Officials were able to get a Life Flight helicopter to the scene, and fly the wounded man to a hospital in Tucson where he was treated for his injuries. The agent was treated for minor injuries.

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Border wall construction near Guadalupe Canyon, just along the U.S.-Mexico border in June 2021.

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