July 4, 2012 / 3:56 AM / in 5 years

U.S. immigration agent injured in Mexico border shooting

HARGILL, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration agent was shot and wounded during a surveillance operation on a desolate stretch of highway near the Texas-Mexico border on Tuesday, and three people were in custody, law enforcement officials said.

The three in custody may be suspects or witnesses to the shooting of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent about 30 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, near McAllen, Texas, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said.

“They could be witnesses, could be participants and that’s what we can say at this point. We expect to make an arrest soon and things are developing very quickly,” he said.

ICE agents and other law enforcement officers were conducting a surveillance operation when at least one person opened fire early on Tuesday, Trevino said.

Authorities would not discuss a possible motive, but they were examining an area along a rural highway between a small house and where a vehicle was abandoned in the brush, its rear and passenger side windows shattered by gunshots.

The wounded special agent was rushed to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was listed in stable condition, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said.

Tuesday’s incident is the second time in less than a year that a law enforcement officer suffered gunshot wounds on duty in Hidalgo County, Texas — a metropolitan area of about 800,000 residents where human smuggling and drug trafficking are commonplace.

Members of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel are suspected of shooting one of Trevino’s deputies in November, prompting the sheriff to declare the incident the first case in the county of so-called “spillover violence” from Mexico’s drug wars.

Editing by Greg McCune, Andrew Stern, Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker

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