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Update: One killed in BP shooting near Casino del Sol

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Update: One killed in BP shooting near Casino del Sol

Search for suspects continued Friday afternoon

  • Vahalla Road was shut down at Valencia Road for a couple of hours Friday morning while a search of the area was conducted.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comVahalla Road was shut down at Valencia Road for a couple of hours Friday morning while a search of the area was conducted.
  • Paul Ingram/
  • Paul Ingram/
  • The scene of the shooting.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comThe scene of the shooting.
  • Paul Ingram/Paul Ingram/

One person is dead following a shooting involving Border Patrol agents southwest of Tucson on Friday morning, officials said.

The incident occurred near South Vahalla Road and West Zorro Road, near West Valencia and Wade roads, west of Casino del Sol and south of Ryan Field.

At 10:23 a.m., Border Patrol agents reported they were involved in a shooting incident with armed suspects about 10 miles southwest of downtown Tucson, resulting in the death of one of the suspects, said agency spokeswoman Nicole Ballistrea. 

At about 10:45 a.m. Border Patrol called the Drexel Heights Fire District to be on standby in the area of Vahalla and Valencia roads, spokeswoman Tracy Koslowski said. The person died at the scene and was not taken to a hospital.

No injuries to border agents were reported, Ballistrea said, reading a statement at the scene.

BP agents searched the area for "additional suspects reported to be on scene," Ballistrea said.

Agents found multiple weapons at the scene, she said.

The identity of the person killed has not been released. No information about that person's gender or age has been released, and it's unclear if the person was shot by a border agent.

Authorities were trying to determine jurisdiction as the shooting took place near the Tohono O'odham Nation, said Pima County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tracy Suitt.

Agents from the FBI arrived on the scene at about 1:30 p.m., and took charge of the investigation.

Pima County sheriff's deputies searched the area Friday morning, but the agency would not say what they were searching for. Authorities have set up shade tents near near the scene, on Hermans Road.

Border and law enforcement agents continued searching the area Friday afternoon, including using ATVs and helicopters.

Previous deadly force incidents questioned

Since 2005, 46 people have been killed by Border Patrol agents or Customs officers, and yet no one has faced public accountability despite serious questions about the agency's handling of use of force and investigations into shooting or complaints of abuse. 

In September, Pima County Attorney's Office determined that a Border Patrol agent who shot and killed an unarmed suspected drug smuggler near a Green Valley golf course wouldn't face criminal charges.

"A jury in a criminal trial would most likely find that Agent (Daniel) Marquez' actions were justified," Chief Criminal Deputy Kellie Johnson told the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Jose Luis Arambula was shot in the back of the head as he was fleeing Border Patrol agents on foot on May 30.

Arambula, 31, had led a group of agents on a 15-mile high-speed chase that ended when he drove his Jeep off-road across a golf course, over a 15-foot embankment and became stuck in sand in a dry river bed. He then ran on foot into a nearby pecan orchard, where he was shot.

Arambula, who refused to stop for border agents after his vehicle triggered a sensor in the desert, was shot behind the left ear after he twice turned toward Marquez during a foot chase and "punch(ed) his hand out as if he were about to shoot a weapon," Johnson wrote.

Arambula, a Tucson-area resident and U.S. citizen, died at the scene. He was unarmed; a cell phone was found under his body.

The suspected drug smuggler was killed the same day that the Border Patrol released an internal report that was highly critical of the use of force by agents.

The 21-page report by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research and policy organization, cited a "lack of diligence" with regard to investigations, and a "no-harm, no-foul" approach that lead to "tacit approval of bad practices."

The report, which had been commissioned in 2013, also questioned the agency's seriousness with regard to deadly force incidents, writing: "It is not clear that CBP consistently and thoroughly reviews all use of deadly force incidents."

"Too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force," the report said.

The group evaluated 67 incidents of deadly force by border agents from January 2010 to October 2012, noting several concerns including when agents fired at vehicles or shots were fired at people throwing rocks and other objects. The report included reviews of 19 incidents in which someone was killed.

The report recommended that agents should be prohibited from shooting at vehicles and should focus on getting out of the way of moving vehicles. It also recommended limiting deadly use of force against rock throwers and asked for changes to training which emphasizes cover and concealment or using protective equipment like screens to protect agents.

Border agents killed

Two Border Patrol agents have been killed near Tucson in recent years.

Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in a gunbattle north of Nogales in December 2010. Terry, 40, encountered a group of five suspected bandits while on a night patrol in the Peck Canyon area west of Rio Rico when he was shot.

Terry, a member of the agency's BORTAC SWAT team, was killed when he and fellow agents exchanged gunfire with the bandits.

Seven men have been indicted in Terry's death, with five in custody. One was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February, after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the case.

Two of the weapons found at the scene of Terry's shooting were traced back to the guns allowed to be delivered to drug cartels as part of the Fast and Furious gun-running investigation.

In October 2012, Agent Nicolas Ivie died in a friendly fire shooting while on patrol in the hills between Bisbee and Douglas. Ivie was shot around 1:50 a.m. Tuesday after he and two other agents responded to a sensor hit. Another of the agents was also shot, suffering non-life-threatening injuries.

Ivie was apparently shot by his fellow agents after he opened fire on them, after approaching from a different direction in the hilly terrain about five miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

While authorities initially believed drug smugglers or illegal aliens were involved in that incident, no suspects were ever located.

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