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SAN DIEGO, California (Reuters) - A U.S. border agent on patrol in Southern California shot and killed a suspected illegal immigrant during a confrontation not far from the border with Mexico, after the agent was pelted with rocks, officials said.
"Fearing for his life the agent discharged his service issued weapon, resulting in the death of one assailant," the U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement after the incident in the Otay Mountain area near the Mexican border east of San Diego.
The Border Patrol said the agent had been trying to arrest several suspected illegal immigrants when he was hit by rocks, one of which struck him in the head. Two suspected illegal immigrants were arrested during the incident, which took place before 7 a.m. (1500 GMT), the Border Patrol said.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been criticized in recent years over concerns that agents may have sometimes been too quick to use lethal force. Sixteen members of Congress called for a review of use-of-force incidents and policy in 2012. The agency said in September it would train officers to defuse threats.
Tuesday's shooting, which took place about 100 yards (meters) from the border in a rugged area 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, was not the first to involve stone-throwers.
In 2011, a Border Patrol agent in Arizona fired through the border fence in Nogales, killing a 17-year-old Mexican stone-thrower. The killing spurred protests. The U.S. Justice Department said last year it would not bring charges against that agent because the fatal injury occurred in Mexico.
Authorities did not immediately release the gender and age of the suspect shot to death on Tuesday, and did not say who threw the rocks at the Border Patrol agent. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department was investigating the shooting, said Lieutenant Jason Vickery.
The agent suffered injuries to his head and hand when he was struck by rocks, said Gabe Pacheco, a representative with the National Border Patrol Council, a union for U.S. border agents. man who fought with him and tried to take the agent's gun.
A month ago, a U.S. Border Patrol agent who had been tracking illegal border crossers shot and killed a man who fought with him and tried to take his gun in the Arizona desert near Mexico, police said.
Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham