Laredo, Texas—A Border Patrol agent shot and killed an unarmed man on the banks of the Rio Grande following a foot chase and a struggle, authorities said Friday.
Border Patrol agents found several men carrying five bundles of marijuana, weighing about 260 pounds, onto the river bank in Laredo near a residential neighborhood late Wednesday night, said Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza Jr.
The men scattered when the agents approached.
An agent caught up with one of the alleged smugglers, and the pair struggled in the brush before the agent shot the man once in the chest, Baeza said.
"The paramedics tried to revive him, and but he was already gone," he said.
Investigators do not believe the man, a Mexican citizen in his 30s, was armed.
Authorities are working with the Mexican consulate to notify the man's family before releasing his name, but he is believed to have previously been apprehended by Border Patrol while allegedly trafficking drugs into the United States, Baeza said.
The other men who allegedly crossed the Rio Grande Wednesday night escaped by swimming back across the river into Mexico, he said.
Border Patrol officials declined Friday to release any information about the agent or to say whether he was still on patrol.
While Border Patrol agents occasionally get into physical confrontations with illegal immigrants, shootings remain very rare.
Two agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, shot an unarmed illegal immigrant, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, in 2005 near El Paso. Aldrete later said he was trying to surrender, though the agents claimed Aldrete was brandishing a gun.
The agents were convicted in federal court of assault with a dangerous weapon, lying about the incident and violating Aldrete's constitutional rights. Aldrete was later arrested on drug trafficking charges, and the agent's case became a hotly contested part of the debate on border security.
Ramos and Compean went to prison but had their sentences commuted by President Bush in 2009.