TUCSON, Ariz. — Gunmen stopped a pickup truck full of illegal immigrants, shot some and took the rest captive Thursday in an attack that left at least three people dead and two wounded, authorities said.
Officials have not determined who the gunmen were but believe the driver, who was probably a smuggler, escaped along with a guide. They are still at large. At least two of the immigrants were Guatemalan, officials believe.
The men shot at least five people, three fatally, along a known smuggling corridor near Tucson, and forced several others in the group of nine or 10 immigrants to leave with them, Pima County sheriff's officials said. The victims are thought to be two men and a 15-year-old girl.
Another 15-year-old girl was later found with slight injuries, and another person, apparently uninjured, was found in the afternoon, officials said. Two men who were not injured were telling authorities what happened, officials said.
Investigators did not immediately know a motive for Thursday's attack, but gangs of bandits are known to roam border areas preying on illegal immigrants as they cross into the country. Feuding among smuggling organizations also is not uncommon, sometimes involving demands for ransoms from the immigrants relatives to gain their freedom.
The attack occurred on a dirt road near the Silverbell Mine, about 20 miles northwest of Tucson, said Rick Kastigar, the Pima County sheriff's criminal investigations chief.
Gunmen in a vehicle shot at the pickup and forced it to stop, killing one man and the teenager, authorities believe. Another man was fatally wounded, one woman was shot in her chest and suffered a neck injury, and a third man was shot in the hand and apparently lost several fingers.
The gunmen continued north and east, forcing several immigrants to go with them, officials said.
The man with the hand injury and the injured woman flagged down a rancher, who called authorities, officials said. Sheriff's officials found the third person dead along the road, and the two remaining wounded were taken to a hospital.
Authorities were trying to determine any link to a Jan. 27 confrontation about 40 miles to the north, possibly between human smugglers, that left one man dead and another wounded. In that incident, four men wearing camouflage uniforms and berets stopped a vehicle carrying illegal immigrants.