HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Agent's Death Highlights Attacks on Border Patrol
Pubdate: Mon, 21 Jan 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


Officials Say Smugglers Are Getting More Aggressive in Response to 
the U.S.'s More Stringent Security Efforts.

IMPERIAL SAND DUNES -- 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, struck by the Hummer going an estimated 55 mph, died within minutes.

On Sunday, officials released more details about the attack in the 
Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area, which came amid a surge in 
assaults against federal agents in many areas along the border in 
recent months.

U.S. authorities said the suspect drove over the dunes back to Mexico 
along with another vehicle. The FBI, which is handling the 
investigation, said Mexican authorities are assisting in the probe.

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.

Authorities suspect the Hummer was carrying drugs. The suspects had 
been driving west on Interstate 8, but when they saw the Border 
Patrol following, they turned off the freeway and started speeding 
back to Mexico.

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.

Nationwide, assaults against Border Patrol agents rose from 752 in 
2006 to 987 in 2007. Authorities say clashes are likely to continue 
as smugglers respond to beefed-up border security with more 
aggressive measures.

"I think it was just a matter of time. Agents are getting assaulted 
every day," said Jeremy Schappell, a Border Patrol spokesman.

Aguilar, originally from El Paso, Texas, was married with two 
children, Schappell said. 
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