North County

San Diego County sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents Wednesday were searching for an alien smuggler who held a rookie Border Patrol agent at gunpoint early Tuesday, after disarming and handcuffing him. The smuggler later fled.

Border Patrol spokesman Wayne Kirkpatrick said two agents were pursuing a pickup truck carrying illegal aliens, on Sandia Creek Drive near Fallbrook, about 1 a.m. when the driver and seven passengers leaped from the truck and fled into a dark, brush-covered ravine.

One agent pursued and arrested the seven suspected illegal aliens, Kirkpatrick said. The other agent, who had just completed training at the Border Patrol academy, pursued the driver of the truck.

The rookie agent was searching for the driver when the smuggler crept up behind and put a gun against the back of his head.

The gunman handcuffed the agent and took his walkie-talkie, flashlight and weapon. The smuggler then ordered the agent, in Spanish, to call out to his partner that he was in trouble and needed help. The other agent replied but could not locate the two, Kirkpatrick said.

Then the smuggler told the agent to yell out that he was heading back to the patrol vehicle and that everything was all right. The agent refused, saying the other agent would suspect something was wrong.

Kirkpatrick said the smuggler then yelled that he had two guns and would kill anybody who came close. The gunman then fled and the agent returned to his vehicle, still handcuffed but uninjured.

"He had not been on the Border Patrol that long, but this could happen to anybody," Kirkpatrick said.

The smuggler was described as about 5-foot-7, 140 to 160 pounds, and wearing a green-striped shirt.

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