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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Texas Workers Fired On by Gunman in Mexico

A group of workers repairing an isolated rural road near the Mexican border in West Texas escaped injury on Thursday after an unknown gunman fired at them from Mexico, authorities said.

A crew of four county employees was working on the county road late Thursday morning when they heard around eight rounds fired from across the Rio Grande, said Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Mike Doyal.

"They were shooting in the direction of the workers," he said.

The workers, who were less than a mile away from the border, quickly fled the area after several of the rounds hit the ground near them.

"The road foreman said he saw the rounds plucking up dirt and heard the sounds of the guns firing. He said they were all able to get out safely," Doyal said.

Investigators did not find any suspects in the area, about 15 miles south of Interstate 10 between Fort Hancock and Sierra Blanca.

One witness told investigators he saw a white pickup truck speeding away after the shooting.

Investigators planned to return with metal detectors to help them find the bullets, Doyal said. But unless authorities can pull any forensic evidence from whatever bullets are found, Doyal said the chances of finding out who shot at the workers are "pretty slim."

It was not immediately known why the workers were fired on, but drug smugglers have been known to use the area.

"It's kind of a remote, desolate area. We do go down there but not that often. If we send a road crew in the near future, we probably will be sending a deputy with them," Doyal said. "The only people living out there are a few people on some of those ranches. I don't think they are in any immediate danger."

Other cities along the Texas-Mexico border have also experienced similar incidents in the past year.

In El Paso, located about 80 miles northwest of Thursday's shooting, the city hall building was hit in June by at least seven shots fired from across the border in Ciudad Juarez, one of the world's most dangerous places because of the ongoing drug war in Mexico.

Two months later, one bullet came across the Rio Grande and hit a building at the University of Texas at El Paso. That bullet was the result of a fight between gunmen and Mexican authorities in Juarez and led police in El Paso to temporarily shut down several miles of a border highway.

In September, U.S. Border Patrol agents fired gunshots into Mexico after coming under attack during a half-ton drug bust and giving chase to a truck along the Rio Grande in the South Texas city of Mission. Border Patrol officials said the agents came under gunfire from the Mexican side.

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