Camo-Clad Gunmen Shoot At Pickup Full Of Immigrants, Leaving Two Dead

Here's a disturbing story, one with even more horrifying potential, out of the Arizona borderlands: Authorities in southern Arizona say two men in a pickup truck carrying illegal immigrants have been fatally shot near Eloy. Pima County

Here's a disturbing story, one with even more horrifying potential, out of the Arizona borderlands:

Authorities in southern Arizona say two men in a pickup truck carrying illegal immigrants have been fatally shot near Eloy.

Pima County Sheriff's officials say it appears the truck was ambushed by an unknown number of people dressed in camouflage and armed with rifles late Sunday night.

Border Patrol agents and police officers from Eloy and Coolidge responded to a report of shots fired about 10:30 p.m. in a wash known for human smuggling activity.

Authorities say one man was found dead inside the bed of the truck and another victim was located in a wash near the vehicle. Their identities haven't been released.

Detectives say it appears shot were fired at the truck by the ambush group.

At this point, the motive isn't clear, according to the Arizona Republic:

Five immigrants among the group later told investigators that as they were driving Sunday night, two or more camouflage-clad gunmen appeared and yelled "Alto!" Spanish for "Stop," fired at them and ran away, Barkman said.

She declined to say whether the truck stopped or its driver tried to flee, or how long the gunmen fired on the immigrants.

Of the 20 to 30 immigrants in the truck at the time of the shooting, most fled into the desert and got away from authorities.

The five immigrants who were found hiding in nearby brush, who are all from Mexico, described the ambush but couldn't say exactly how many shooters there were.

Barkman said it was too dark for them to see the race of their attackers. They were turned over to the Border Patrol.

There have been similar shootings, as the story notes, that were related to drug-cartel rip-offs:

The shooting is similar to a handful of fatal shootings in 2007, including one in March of that year in which a woman and her brother-in-law were found dead by Pima County sheriff's deputies after men with high-powered weapons opened fire on a truck loaded with 21 other immigrants about 25 miles south of Tucson. The men were part of a so-called "rip" crew looking to rob other smugglers of drug loads.

In a similar attack in February 2007, gunmen believed to be rival smugglers opened fire on a truck carrying around 20 immigrants, killing two men and a suspected smuggler who was driving a vehicle was killed and a 12-year-old boy was wounded when four men wearing camouflage uniforms and berets and armed with at least one assault weapon stopped the vehicle in a farm field.

On the other hand, there have been other shootings near the border where it's not at all clear that cartels were involved at all, including one near Rio Rico in which other skeletal remains were found nearby. These happened more recently, too -- in 2010.

And indeed, the Pima County investigators are not ruling out the possibility that these were border vigilantes, as Mike Ludwig at TruthOut reports:

When asked if investigators suspect the attack was orchestrated by a militia, sheriff's department spokesperson Deputy Dawn Barkman said investigators are "looking into every possibility but nothing is conclusive."

We'll be watching this investigation closely.

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