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BP: Fleeing driver shot at agents at I-19 checkpoint

A Tucson man is facing multiple felony charges after he shot at Border Patrol agents while fleeing from the Interstate 19 checkpoint on Christmas Eve night, authorities said. 

Roberto Ramirez, 21, was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents after he fled from the I-19 checkpoint near Amado, south of Tucson. Along with Ramirez were two people, later identified as Mexican nationals, who had entered the country illegally.

Ramirez was charged with transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury, high-speed flight from a Border Patrol checkpoint, assault on a federal officer, and the use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime, said Cosme Lopez, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The incident began when Ramirez, who was driving a Ford Escape, was referred for secondary inspection at the checkpoint, said Lopez. 

Rather than pull into the secondary area, Ramirez fled, driving northbound at a "high rate of speed." Several BP agents pursued him in their vehicles, and Ramirez fired "several gunshots" at the agents and attempted to ram their vehicles, Lopez said.

Ramirez eventually lost control of his car and crashed. One of Ramirez’s passengers was ejected during the crash and suffered serious injuries, Lopez said. 

Ramirez, along with his two passengers, were arrested and transported to a local hospital and treated for their injuries, said a Border Patrol spokesman.

Agent with Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating the incident and processing the 21-year-old driver for multiple felony charges, he said. 

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Ramirez faced an initial appearance on Wednesday, and will remain in custody, said Lopez. Several of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Lopez said. 

The two Mexican passengers will be processed for immigration violations in accordance with Tucson Sector guidelines, the spokesman said. 

This is the third time that someone has been charged with assault against a Border Patrol agent in the Tucson Sector. Earlier this month, one man was charged with assault after he fought with agents during an apprehension south of Sells, Arizona about 56 miles southwest of Tucson, while another man was charged after he kicked an agent in the head while he was climbing the international barrier in Nogales, Arizona. 

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The Ford Escape driven by a U.S. citizen, who fled the Interstate 19 checkpoint and fired on agents. Inside were two passengers, both Mexican nationals, who had entered the country without authorization.