A conflict between armed militias and law enforcement—a potentially deadly encounter widely predicted—has occurred on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Last week, a U.S. Border Patrol agent pursuing a group of immigrants in a wooded area east of Brownsville, Texas, fired four shots at an armed man who later identified himself as a militia member, The Associated Press reports.
The Border Patrol agent had lost the group of immigrants when he turned around and saw the armed man holding the weapon, authorities said. Bullets fired by the federal agent did not hit the man, who dropped his weapon and “identified himself as a member of a militia,” Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora told the wire service.
The man, whose identity and hometown weren’t released, was wearing camouflage and carrying either a rifle or shotgun, said Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, whose agency was investigating.
The FBI, which investigates assaults on federal officials, also is now involved in the investigation, KGBT-TV in Harlingen, Texas, reported over the weekend.
The sheriff said the incident on Friday occurred on private property and it appeared the man, who was not arrested, had permission to be there.
An unknown number of militia members–mostly wearing masks and refusing to be identified–began appearing on the Texas border in late July following widespread press reports this summer of a surge in illegal immigration, mostly of unaccompanied minors.
“We really don’t need the militia here,” Cameron County Sheriff Lucio told the AP. The sheriff said he recognizes the militia units have the right to carry weapons and assemble at the border, but he also said that citizen vigilantes pose risks to themselves and law enforcement.
The sheriff said with the Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement, there are enough agencies working to secure the border. Gov. Rick Perry also called as many as 1,000 National Guard members to the border.
“It just creates a problem from my point of view, because we don’t know who they are,” Lucio said.