SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The man that was killed in a gun battle with Customs and Border Patrol officials on Monday was reportedly trying to smuggle people into the country, authorities said.
The suspect was identified as 23-year-old Travis James Eckstein, an American citizen. He was killed following the shootout with law enforcement officials at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Police said Eckstein was crossing back into the United States from Mexico when he was flagged for a secondary inspection. When he refused to pull over and allow CBP agents to search his truck, the situation escalated quickly.
According to statements from CBP, Eckstein was attempting to smuggle two Chinese nationals across the border. When officials went to look inside Eckstein’s vehicle, they noticed two passengers “secreted” in the rear of the truck.
The two men were said to be aged 27 and 18, and neither had legal status in the states.
“The CBP officers risked their own lives to protect the public from this gunman,” Pete Flores, Director of Field Operations, said in a statement. “Human smuggling is always dangerous. This unfortunate incident demonstrates the total disregard smuggling organizations have for what they consider to be cargo.”
CBP confirmed that the man was driving a white truck and refused to stop for a search. When he tried to flee but was blocked by a car, Eckstein reportedly opened fire at authorities.
“The suspect began firing a gun out of his vehicle towards the officers, then exited his vehicle and continued firing at the officers,” the statement from SDPD Homicide read. “The officers returned fire, striking the suspect.”
Border agents reportedly yelled, “Get down, everybody get down!” Onlookers reported that at least a dozen shots were heard.
A motorist who had just crossed into the United States caught part of the events on cellphone video.
CBP officers and San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel reportedly tried to treat the suspect at the scene but he died from his injuries, SDPD homicide investigators said.
San Diego Police confirm a shooting happened in the secondary vehicle inspection area at the #SanYsidro Port Of Entry this evening involving a Border Patrol agent. No word yet on injuries. @fox5sandiego pic.twitter.com/IFhyPMwBTA
— Kasia Gregorczyk (@KasiaGTV) June 4, 2019
A man sitting in traffic waiting to cross said he heard the gunshots.
“We hear ‘pop pop.’ Super gnarly. We are like ‘those were fireworks,’ and my other buddy was like ‘Those were gunshots,'” the man said. “And then we saw all these Border Patrol dudes running and then they were chasing someone.”
SDPD and the ATF responded to assist in the investigation. None of the seven officers involved in the shooting were reported to have any injuries. The two men being snuck into the country were reportedly uninjured and were taken into custody by law enforcement officials.