A U.S. Border Patrol agent fired several rounds toward an armed militia member in Texas, reigniting concerns among law enforcement officials about conflicts with untrained and unregulated volunteers who have arrived at the Mexican border in the wake of the recent immigration crisis.
Omar Zamora, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that the agent was chasing several suspects through an area of thick brush near the Rio Grande on Friday afternoon when he came upon a militia member holding a shotgun or rifle.
The agent fired several rounds, and the militia member immediately dropped his weapon, according to Zamora, who said no one was injured.
“It’s difficult because we have several different law enforcement agencies there from federal, state and local … we can work together, we can deconflict,” he said. “We’re all in uniform.”
It was not immediately clear if the man, who was not identified, will face criminal charges. The Cameron County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident that occurred near Brownsville, but no one was available for comment.
Zamora did not identify the patrol agent and said it was not clear what organization the militia member belonged to. He was standing on private property at the time of the incident.
A crush of law enforcement, including 1,000 Texas National Guard members called in by Gov. Rick Perry, have descended on South Texas in recent months as a flood of Central American immigrants have entered the country.
Nearly 60,000 immigrants, many of them unaccompanied women and children, have fled to the U.S. to escape gang and drug violence in their home countries since October. Most have crossed into Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
Unregulated volunteers, including the Oathkeepers, Three Percenter’s Club, Patriots and the Minutemen, have also arrived near the border, drawing the ire of law enforcement.
“It’s something that we don’t condone,” Zamora said. “There’s all kinds of non-government organizations that Americans can volunteer for, but we do not support armed individuals on the border doing border patrol work.”
Zamora said he believed the incident was the first of its kind since the influx of immigrants began last year. Border Patrol officials will likely meet this week to discuss protocols to address possible conflicts with militia members, he said.