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Gunmen take aim at migrants; body discovered nearby

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Posted: Monday, June 14, 2010 10:00 pm

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the shooting of an undocumented immigrant near Rio Rico, as well as the discovery of human remains in the same area. 

On Friday morning, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a “concerned citizen” who had encountered a group of undocumented migrants at the intersection of West Frontage Road and Peck Canyon Drive in Rio Rico, according to dispatch records. The men initially said they had been shot at and robbed, then told deputies they had also come across two dead bodies at the southern end of Peck Canyon Drive, which is approximately 10 miles from the U.S.- Mexico border. 

across two dead bodies at the southern end of Peck Canyon Drive, which is approximately 10 miles from the U.S.- Mexico border. 

Sheriff Antonio Estrada said that according to his department’s incident report, five undocumented migrants had crossed into the United States and were walking through a canyon around 5 a.m. on Friday when two unidentified males wearing camouflage clothing shot at them with a high-powered rifle. 

“The victims claimed no demands were made. They were just walking and fired upon,” said Estrada, who added that the group had not been robbed. Estrada said that when the group ran, one of the men, Manuel Esquer Gomez, 45, from Nogales, Sonora sustained a gunshot wound to the left forearm.  

As the group continued, the men stumbled upon skeletal remains of what they thought were two people. 

Deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, along with a U.S. Border Patrol special response team and air support, responded and found the skeletal remains of one man. Documents found on the man identified him as Alberto Donato Lopez, 40, from Puebla, Mexico. Lopez’s body was taken to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson to determine the cause of death. 

“It is unknown at this time if the deceased was killed or died of natural causes,” Estrada said. “There’s always a concern that these people could possibly be victims of violence.” 

Estrada said the Border Patrol tracked footprints from the scene of the shooting, but no suspects were found.  

“At this point we don’t know who they are and whether they are from here or from Mexico,” said Estrada. “It’s perturbing to hear of people with high-powered rifles and camouflage. It raises some real red flags.”

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