American Citizen Killed by Border Officer ID’d; Officials Say He Was Smuggling Chinese Men

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An American man who died in an exchange of gunfire with federal officers while rushing the San Ysidro border crossing this week was carrying men in the back of his truck who were in the U.S. illegally, officials said Wednesday.

Travis James Eckstein, 23, began shooting at Customs and Border Protection officers as he tried to drive past an inspection point around 7:30 p.m. Monday, according to CBP and San Diego police.

Witnesses told police investigators that Eckstein refused to stop as he entered San Diego from Tijuana. Several border officers tried to halt him, but he only stopped after being blocked by another vehicle, officials said.

Authorities respond after a Border Patrol agent was involved in a shooting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on June 3, 2019. (Credit: OnScene.TV)
Authorities respond after a Border Patrol agent was involved in a shooting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on June 3, 2019. (Credit: OnScene.TV)

That's when he allegedly began shooting at officers from his truck, before getting out and continuing the gunfire. Seven border officers returned fire, and Eckstein was fatally struck, police said.

None of the officers were hurt.

The shooting erupted in a secondary vehicle inspection area, the Associated Press reported.

Two other men, both Chinese nationals, were found in the rear of Eckstein's truck. The men, ages 18 and 27, had no legal status to enter the U.S., authorities said.

Both men were interviewed by police before being handed over to border officers.

Traffic heading into the U.S. from Mexico, both pedestrian and vehicle, was blocked for about 30 minutes after the shooting while an investigation was conducted. Southbound traffic was not impacted, CBP said.

San Diego police are continuing to conduct interviews and collect evidence in their investigation of the fatal shooting. CBP says it's also conducting its own internal investigation.

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