Boy, 15, Is Shot in 1st Incident Since Return of City's Border Crime Unit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 15-year-old Mexican boy who reportedly attacked a policeman with a knife was shot in the thigh in the first such incident involving the recently reactivated San Diego Police Border Crime Intervention Unit.

The youth, who was released from Children's Hospital Monday, and another 15-year-old boy, who was also taken into custody Sunday night, were moved to Juvenile Hall Monday, police said.

Both teen-agers are being held on suspicion of multiple counts of armed robbery, and the youth with the knife is also facing an additional count of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, David Cohen, a Police Department spokesman, said.

The shooting unfolded as officers watched two juveniles, armed with what police thought were a knife and a gun, robbing groups near the south levee of the international border near 3300 Monument Road shortly before 11 p.m. Sunday, police spokesman Bill Robinson said.

Officers Joseph Bane, 33, and Mike Gutierrez, 25, in uniforms, headed toward the pair to arrest them, but one of the youths ran toward the officers, despite repeated warnings in Spanish from Bane identifying himself as a police officer, Robinson said.

The boy continued running toward Bane and allegedly raised a knife in the air.

"They didn't want to be caught," Robinson said.

Bane, who was about 3 feet from the boy, fired two shots from his 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, hitting the boy once in the thigh.

Police saw the other boy toss what appeared to be a gun into the bushes. The gun turned out to be light-weight metal replica handgun, Robinson said.

"It was a pellet gun, but it looked like a .45-caliber automatic," said Police Lt. Bill Brown, of the San Ysidro station.

In the past, police say, thieves who operate at night in the border strip have mistaken uniformed police and U.S. Border Patrol agents for undocumented immigrants. Police say robbers, often armed with only toy weapons or crude knives, have consequently attacked the armed lawmen, provoking the officers to open fire in self-defense.

But these types of attacks puzzle local activists concerned with border-area violence.

"It was inevitable that there would be a confrontation, with the increase in bandit activity. It's just disturbing that it happened to a boy, and I'm just a little puzzled that he would attack uniformed officers," said Roberto Martinez, director of the U.S.-Mexico border program for the American Friends Service Committee, a social arm of the Quaker Church.

Highly publicized and controversial shootings in the past have put the Border Crime Intervention Unit under close scrutiny and have even resulted in its being sidelined. One incident last December involved the shooting of a 17-year-old Mexican youth, who is now paralyzed from the waist down. The unit was reinstated last month.

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