‘Bullet After Bullet After Bullet’: American Man Dies in Gunbattle With U.S. Officials at San Ysidro Border Crossing
A 23-year-old American man, suspected of human smuggling, died Monday following a shootout with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, authorities confirmed.
On Wednesday, San Diego Police Department identified the suspect as Travis James Eckstein.
Police also noted Wednesday that two men were found in the rear of Eckstein’s truck, according to CBP.
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Officials identified the men as Chinese citizens, aged 18 and 27, with no legal status to enter the U.S.
“The CBP officers risked their own lives to protect the public from this gunman,” said CBP Director of Field Operations Pete Flores. “Human smuggling is always dangerous. This unfortunate incident demonstrates the total disregard smuggling organizations have for what they consider to be cargo.”
Shots were fired after Eckstein, driving northbound, failed to stop for an inspection at the border crossing located south of San Diego, CBP confirmed.
“It was bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet -- it was scary, and I mean, we just kind of freaked out,” said Gabriella Berragan, who was at the port of entry Monday.
Berragan was inside her car with her boyfriend, her baby, and her two-year-old daughter when she heard shots ring out.
“We heard three shots -- two to three shots, and it sounded like fireworks,” she told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
A CBP spokesperson said Eckstein, behind the wheel of a white pickup truck, attempted to drive through the inspection area at around 7:30 p.m.
“The suspect began firing a gun out of his vehicle towards the officers, then exited his vehicle and continued firing at the officers,” a statement from SDPD Homicide said. “The officers returned fire, striking the suspect.”
Berragan said she was terrified by the “madness” because officers were yelling at people “to duck, to hide.”
“It was very terrifying because of the simple fact that we didn’t know where the bullets were coming from. We just saw them coming,” she said. “My first instinct as a mom was to jump back and be with my kids.”
NBC 7 obtained video shot by Berragan’s boyfriend, who had just crossed into the U.S.
Dozens of shots can be heard, as well as someone closer to the incident yelling “Get down, everybody get down!”
Zooch Williams, a U.S. citizen who was on the Mexican side of the border waiting in line to cross, said he heard and saw a commotion.
“We hear ‘pop, pop’ -- super gnarly. We’re like, no way, those weren’t fireworks, and our other buddy was, like, ‘No, those were gunshots,’” Williams said. “And then we saw all these Border Patrol dudes running and then they were chasing someone.”
CBP officers and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews tried to treat Eckstein at the scene but he died from his injuries, SDPD Homicide investigators said.
Seven CBP officers were involved in the shooting, and none of them were injured by the gunfire.
No motive was released for the shooting.
SDPD and the ATF responded to assist in the investigation.
CBP said northbound vehicle and pedestrian traffic was halted for about 30 minutes after the incident. Southbound traffic was not affected.
On Tuesday, five lanes remained closed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Anyone with information regarding this incident can call the Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
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