Suspected smugglers fired on in Pinal County - Tucson News Now

MAN SHOT, ANOTHER FOUND DEAD >>

Suspected smugglers fired on in Pinal County

The man was shot near milepost 150 on Interstate 8, Pinal County deputies said. The man was shot near milepost 150 on Interstate 8, Pinal County deputies said.
The scene of the shooting where multiple law enforcement agencies are undergoing a search for the suspect. The scene of the shooting where multiple law enforcement agencies are undergoing a search for the suspect.

PINAL COUNTY, AZ (KOLD) - A group of suspected illegal immigrants were shot at early Thursday morning in a remote desert area near Antelope Peak, located about 25 miles west of Casa Grande.  One man died, another person was injured in the incident that led to a massive manhunt along the Interstate 8 corridor. 

Pinal County Sheriff's deputies say a group of 15 people were running marijuana in the Antelope Peak area, when they were approached by a smaller group of bandits, known as a "rip crew."

"We are still searching actively for victims, suspects and witnesses," said Chief Deputy Steve Henry of the Pinal County Sheriff's Department. 

At around 1 p.m. Thursday, authorities converged on a home in the Stanfield area, some ten miles east of the initial crime scene.  There they found six individuals believed to be connected to the morning shooting.  The six people, all believed to be Mexican immigrants, are likely part of the smuggling group that encountered the rip crew.

While they wouldn't elaborate further, authorities say the rip crew likely met up with a vehicle waiting along Interstate 8 and fled eastbound.  It's unknown how much marijuana they got away with, though authorities say there's significant "physical evidence" suggesting they "stole a load."

The encounter between the bandits and the suspected smugglers began just before 2:15 a.m. That's when the 35-year-old man was shot in the stomach, Pinal County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tim Gaffney said.

The 35-year-old man split from the group and called his daughter from his cell phone, Gaffney added. Gaffney believed the man's daughter could have called 911 on his behalf.   

He was later treated at a rest stop near milepost 150 on Interstate 8 before being flown out on a helicopter to a Phoenix-area hospital. Gaffney said he is underwent surgery for his injuries.

The man admitted to deputies that the group he was traveling with were all illegal immigrants, Gaffney said.

Law enforcement from at least three agencies have scoured the area looking for a suspect or suspects. Agents with the Border Patrol, the Department of Public Safety and Pinal deputies are working together to conduct the search. 

In addition to the physical evidence found, authorities also discovered a hand gun at the scene.  It's believed that gun belonged to the man killed in the shootout.

There have been two other drug-related shootings in the Antelope Peak area over the last year.  Authorities say the corridor, located about 70 miles north of the Mexico border, has become a turnpike illegal activity.

Live video from KTVK in Phoenix showed multiple units in the desert area.

Stay with KOLD News 13 on your mobile, computer and television for updates on this developing story.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly