Border Patrol Checkpoint Shootout in Arizona

TUCSON (CN) — Investigators are trying to determine why a 76-year-old man opened fire on Border Patrol agents Wednesday at a checkpoint near Tombstone, Arizona.

At least two agents shot back at the suspect, Gary Smith, and wounded him, according to the acting chief of the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, Felix Chavez. The agents were not hurt, and have been placed on administrative leave.

The shooting happened about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday at the highway checkpoint north of Tombstone, about 70 miles from Tucson, which was temporarily closed due to windy weather. The suspect shot at agents after crashing his black Dodge Dakota through traffic barricades, Chavez said.

“The agents, fearing for their lives, immediately returned fire, striking the driver once in the upper left arm,” Chavez said.

The shootout came less than an hour after a Tombstone resident called the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to report concerns about her 76-year-old father. The woman said he had just left home and she was worried about his medical condition and the guns and alcohol in his truck, sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas said.

Chavez said the suspect had two weapons. The injured man received medical care at the scene from an agent with emergency medical training before being flown to a Tucson hospital. He remains in custody while he recovers.

The checkpoint is one of 11 in the Tucson Sector, which covers most of Arizona, where agents stop drivers to ask about their citizenship and dogs sniff cars for drugs.

A multiagency is investigating the shootout.