Monday, January 21, 2008

Agent's death at campground highlights attacks on Border Patrol

IMPERIAL SAND DUNES - CALIFORNIA -- The off-road enthusiasts were revving their dune buggies and all-terrain vehicles Saturday morning when a brown Hummer suddenly cut into the campground. The man at the wheel, a suspected drug smuggler, was heading to Mexico, fast.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, the only person in the way, threw a spike strip in front of the car. The Hummer sped up. "It looked like the man swerved and hit the agent intentionally," said one witness.

Aguilar, 32, a six-year veteran, was part of an anti-smuggling team patrolling the scenic landscape of sand dunes and trailer-dotted campgrounds in southeast California. On weekends, when the dunes fill with riders, Mexican smugglers slip across the open border, trying to blend in with the other off-road vehicles.

On an access road to the Buttercup campground, just two miles from the border, Aguilar was waiting for them at an intersection. Authorities said it was unclear whether the suspect intentionally ran over the agent, or swerved to avoid the spike strip.

At the intersection Sunday, visitors left flowers and a card, and erected an American flag. Many campsites flew their American flags at half-staff. "It's horrible, but not surprising," said James R. Broxholme, a vendor of dune buggy parts. He said Border Patrol pursuits are a regular occurrence at the campground, about 15 miles from the Arizona border.
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