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The FBI and Texas Rangers are investigating a shooting in South Texas. On Wednesday, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a woman after she and a group of unauthorized immigrants attacked the agents with what were described as blunt objects. This has further inflamed the tensions along the heavily patrolled Rio Grande. NPR's John Burnett has this story.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The Border Patrol says the agent was alone trying to apprehend six undocumented immigrants midday Wednesday in the town of Rio Bravo near Laredo, Texas. The agency says when the officer came under attack, he fired at least one round from his service weapon and struck the woman in the head. Other agents arrived and performed emergency first aid on her, but she died at the scene. Three of the immigrants were arrested. Two fled across the river back to Mexico. A neighbor shot this video of the aftermath of the shooting and posted it online. You can hear her asking the officers why they killed the woman.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).
BURNETT: Hector Garza is a spokesman for the Border Patrol union in the Laredo sector. It includes Rio Bravo, a sliver of a town whose main street halts at the bank of the sluggish Rio Grande.
HECTOR GARZA: This part of the border is very active for human and drug smuggling activities. And an agent that's working in that area can very routinely see anywhere from 30 to 50 illegal aliens attempting to make entry during a single shift.
BURNETT: Immigrant advocates along the southern divide say that with President Trump's intense focus on border security federal immigration agents have gotten more aggressive. Then last month, the president announced he was deploying the National Guard to the border to help agents stop illegal entries. The fatal shooting of an immigrant woman is upsetting local residents who question whether the area should be further militarized.
KARINA ALVAREZ: We don't need any more protection. We're safe.
BURNETT: Karina Alvarez is founder of the Laredo Immigrant Alliance. She says her community worries whether the investigation will be objective.
ALVAREZ: Our community really is in fear. We really think that there should be accountability over this Border Patrol agent.
BURNETT: This has been an issue before. Concerned over a rash of deadly shootings by its agents, Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, initiated training that stress the use of nonlethal force. The agency says shooting incidents dropped nearly 70 percent from 2012 to 2017. But in the first six months of this fiscal year, agents used their guns nine times - more than twice as much - as at the same period a year earlier.
Administration officials say that's because assaults on agents have spiked. Yet critics say the agency is playing with the numbers. In one incident in the Rio Grande Valley last year, six people threw rocks bottles and branches at seven agents. By the Border Patrol's tally, that added up to 126 separate assaults. The Intercept website accused the agency of exaggerating the dangers out there. When asked about that, Carry Huffman, chief of strategic planning at CBP, put it this way.
CARRY HUFFMAN: If you had to dodge 126 different projectiles at you, you might think differently. Would you not?
BURNETT: The agent who was involved in the Rio Bravo shooting, who was not identified, has been put on administrative leave during the investigation.
John Burnett, NPR News, Austin.
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