SAN DIEGO — Authorities were on the lookout Monday for a high- priority fugitive suspected of assaulting a Border Patrol agent with a softball- sized rock over the weekend during a confrontation in a remote and rugged area near Jacumba.
Federal officers spotted Martel Valencia-Cortez, 39, as he allegedly was smuggling 14 suspected undocumented immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico line amid wet, sub-40-degree weather about 7 p.m. Sunday, according to USBP public affairs.
When he saw the agents, Valencia-Cortez broke away from his group and ran toward higher ground on Carries Mountain.
The personnel gave chase, and as they began to catch up to Valencia- Cortez, he allegedly hurled a large stone at them, striking one in the face. The injured agent responded by firing multiple rounds at the suspect with his service pistol.
Valencia-Cortez, apparently unscathed by the gunfire, continued fleeing and crossed back into Mexico, officials said.
Border Patrol officers took the rest of the suspected illegal immigrants into custody. The agent who had been struck by the rock, meanwhile, received medical attention.
Valencia-Cortez, a Mexican national, has been involved in numerous human smuggling incidents dating back to 1997, according to federal authorities.
Valencia-Cortez has been known to carry a gun during smuggling attempts and has eluded arrest by resorting to violent and dangerous conduct, including reckless, wrong-way driving on freeways, threatening and brandishing weapons, assaulting peace officers and resisting arrest.
Valencia-Cortez was released from federal custody in September following a three-year prison sentence for alien smuggling.
The fugitive’s latest alleged violent actions toward law enforcement personnel “serve as a bleak reminder of the risk Border Patrol agents encounter in the service of their duties,” said Richard Barlow, chief agent with the agency’s San Diego Sector.
“I will not sit back and allow this blatant disregard for the value of human life,” Barlow said. “San Diego Sector will follow all leads and adjust our enforcement posture until (the suspect) is located and arrested. Justice will be served.”
A federal arrest warrant has been issued for Valencia-Cortez, who is described as 5 feet, 11 inches tall and about 200 pounds. He has black hair, brown eyes and a tattoo on his right shoulder.
Authorities anyone who spots Valencia-Cortez is urged to consider him armed and dangerous and to call 911 immediately to reported his whereabouts.