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Central American men accused of assaulting Border Patrol agents near Imperial Beach

A pair of Central American men believed to be in the country illegally were charged in federal court in San Diego on Friday with assaulting U.S. Border Patrol agents in separate incidents Thursday night near Imperial Beach.

One of the men was from Honduras and the other from El Salvador, according to the U.S. attorney’s office, which alleged that one man elbowed an agent and the other tried unsuccessfully to punch another agent.

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A statement from federal prosecutors did not say whether either man was believed to have reached the border in the large caravan of asylum-seeking migrants from Central America that arrived last month in Tijuana.

Events leading to the arrest of the Honduran suspect began around 9:30 p.m. in an area about four miles west of San Ysidro, and about 400 yards north of the barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, according to the federal criminal complaint. That’s where he was allegedly spotted by authorities along with four other men — one from Honduras and three from El Salvador — and ordered to lie down

Prosecutors said the group was initially compliant, with the exception of the suspect, who at one point stood up as a Border Patrol agent was trying to handcuff him.

When the other four men stood up and ran, the suspect allegedly elbowed the agent in the chest, and then the agent “deployed several strikes to [the suspect’s] body and head,” according to the criminal complaint. The suspect then tried to grab the handcuffs from the agent, sparking a tug-of-war that sent both men tumbling down a hill.

The suspect escaped and was at large for about an hour, during which time the other four men were detained, court documents said. The suspect was detained around 10:30 p.m. and placed under arrest, when he allegedly admitted to entering the country without authorization.

He was charged Friday with assault on a federal officer and illegal entry.

The suspect from El Salvador was detained about 15 minutes later in the same area near Imperial Beach. Prosecutors said he ran toward a Border Patrol agent — apparently unprovoked — and “reached back with his arm and swung” at the agent.

The agent said he avoided the punch and wrestled the suspect to the ground, but the man momentarily escaped and ran south toward the border fence, court documents said. He was detained as he tried to scale the fence to cross back into Mexico, the documents said.

The suspect allegedly admitted to being from El Salvador and entering the U.S. without authorization. He, too, was charged Friday with assault on a federal officer and illegal entry.

Border Patrol agents and federal prosecutors said it was at least the third incident involving an assault on a federal officer near the border this week.

Riggins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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