Two border officers shot and wounded a man at the nation's busiest border crossing Thursday after the man grew nervous under questioning, ran away and fired a starter pistol pulled from his waistband, authorities said.
The afternoon shooting prompted U.S. Customs and Border Protection to temporarily suspend pedestrian travel into the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Angelica De Cima said.
The man ran northbound toward the United States to avoid inspection, she said.
Several witness saw the whole thing.
"I saw some guy in a suit, tan suit walks up, and then all of the sudden I just hear like 'oh he has a gun' and I see him fighting back towards the police," according to Victor Buzzelli, a witness.
"We heard the shots. I thought 'Oh my God, we're going to die in here,'" says Kimberly Aguilar. "Then we saw the shooter. They shot him and he went down."
"The 47 year old suspect pulled out from his waste band what appears to be a replica handgun. It's a medal handgun with rubber grips," according to Lt. Kevin Rooney of the San Diego Police Department. "It does appear to the naked eye to be a semi-automatic handgun. The suspect raised the weapon in the air and did pull the trigger and it did make some type of a firing noise."
The man was taken to a trauma center for treatment. Rooney said he didn't know the man's name, nationality or how many times he was shot.
One of the border officers sustained a minor injury to his hand, De Cima said.
Rooney said police will investigate whether the officers' use of force was justified. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators will determine if the man should face criminal charges.
Inspection for pedestrians travel was suspended for two hours until officials converted two of the 24 U.S.-bound vehicle lanes to handle pedestrian traffic.
About 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians enter the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing each day.
Last week, all U.S.-bound traffic was halted at the crossing after scaffolding installed to protect cars from overhead construction collapsed onto eight lanes, seriously injuring a construction worker. Ten others were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.