SAN DIEGO (AP) — A notorious human smuggler struck a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the face with a rock after a foiled smuggling attempt in the mountains of eastern San Diego County, federal authorities said.
The suspect, Martel Valencia-Cortez, is accused of smuggling 14 people through rocky terrain near Jacumba Hot Springs on Sunday evening when agents spotted the group, Border Patrol spokeswoman Mary Beth Caston said.
As agents moved in, Valencia-Cortez ran to higher ground. He hurled a softball-sized rock, striking an agent in the face, Caston said.
The agent shot at Valencia-Cortez, but authorities don’t believe he was injured. He was last spotted sprinting toward Mexico.
The 14 people he was suspected of smuggling into the U.S. from Mexico were arrested and interviewed. They identified Valencia-Cortez, 39, who was released from prison in September after serving a term for human smuggling.
The injured agent received treatment for cuts and bruising.
Richard Barlow, San Diego Sector chief patrol agent, said in a statement Monday that Valencia-Cortez has “a long history of endangering the lives of my agents and the citizens we serve.”
The Mexican national has a violent criminal history spanning more than a decade, including driving into oncoming traffic on roads and freeways, intimidating and threatening people he has smuggled, assaulting agents and resisting arrest, officials said.
Valencia-Cortez is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 205 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo on his right shoulder and is considered armed and dangerous.