Three Mexican nationals have been arrested in connection with two border rock-throwing incidents that left one Border Patrol agent with a hearing loss and another with a cut on his head.
The FBI announced in San Diego on Thursday that Oscar Guerrero Carmona, 20, of Tijuana was arrested Tuesday and charged with assaulting Border Patrol Agent Raynaldo Perez on May 20. Pedro Hernandez Sosa, 22, of Acapulco and Arturo Vasquez Ayala, 23, of Chinconquac were arrested last Friday and charged with assaulting Agent Tony Ruiz the night before.
The three men face federal prison terms of 10 years each and fines of $250,000 if convicted.
According to a Border Patrol spokesman, Perez was hit in the right ear while attempting to apprehend a group of aliens who had crossed the Tijuana River about a quarter of a mile west of the San Ysidro border station. Perez and several other agents had rushed to the scene to assist a fellow agent who was confronted by a large group of aliens, Border Patrol Supervisor Armand Olvera said.
Perez, who had been an agent for 11 months when he was injured, ran after a smaller group that had crossed to the river's north levee, Olvera said. As he ran toward the aliens, Guerrero allegedly threw a rock from the border fence, which is just a few feet from the south levee, Olvera said.
"The rock hit Agent Perez in the right ear and he went down like a rock," he said. "He passed out and blood started flowing from his ear."
Perez was taken to a local hospital and underwent surgery a week later. The injury resulted in a hearing loss in his right ear, but Perez has since returned to limited duty, Olvera said.
According to Olvera, a Mexican national witnessed the incident and identified Guerrero as the assailant. Later, the Border Patrol determined that Guerrero has a local border crossing card that allows him to visit the United States for up to 72 hours at a time.
On Tuesday, Guerrero crossed into the United States at San Ysidro and was arrested by the Border Patrol. The unidentified witness was brought in and named Guerrero as the rock thrower.
In the incident last week, Ruiz was injured on the first day of a Border Patrol crackdown on aliens camped along the south levee. The levee, which is on the U.S. side of the border, is the spot where hundreds of aliens typically camp during the day, awaiting a chance to cross farther into the United States at night.
On Sept. 4, as agents initiated their patrol of the area, 150 to 200 aliens "charged" the levee, according to Olvera. Hernandez and Vasquez allegedly incited 15 to 20 aliens to throw rocks at the agents, Olvera said.
"When the rock-throwing began, Agent Ruiz ran to his vehicle to get a tear-gas canister and (tear-gas) gun to disperse the crowd," he said. "While he ran to the vehicle, he was hit in the head with a rock. Despite the blood that was flowing from his head, Agent Ruiz managed to fire one tear gas round and threw one canister and the crowd dispersed." Six stitches were required to close Ruiz's wound.
According to a statement issued by the FBI, which investigates all assaults against federal officers, two unidentified Mexican nationals "forced" Hernandez and Vasquez into the United States during the skirmish. They were promptly arrested by the Border Patrol and turned over to the FBI the next day.
Both incidents occurred in the Border Patrol's Imperial Beach sector, which includes everything west of Interstate 5, from the border to Interstate 8. According to Olvera, between April 16 and Monday, there have been 90 rock-throwing incidents in the sector and 64 additional assaults on agents.
During the same period, agents have had 14 encounters with aliens who were armed with guns or knives, Olvera said. The violent confrontations have left five agents injured, two aliens wounded and one dead.
Between Jan. 12 and Sept. 4, agents had to use tear gas on 35 occasions to disperse hostile groups of aliens, Olvera said.