A Pima County grand jury has indicted two Mexican citizens on murder charges in the deaths of two suspected illegal immigrants riding in a pickup truck with a group of fellow migrants, authorities said.
The indictment charges Rosario Humberto Araujo-Monarrez, 21, and Martin Esrain Flores-Gaxiola, 18, each with two counts of first-degree murder and 21 counts of endangerment, Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said. The men are from the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
The men were charged in the indictment handed up last week with the March 30 attack on a pickup hauling 23 suspected illegal immigrants near Green Valley. Each is being held under a $1 million bond in the Pima County Jail, Unklesbay said.
The two were found within hours of the shooting at a campsite about a half-mile from the remote desert site where the attacked happened. Three high-powered weapons were also found.
Both men told investigators that four men took part in the shootings, and that they were trying to seize what they thought was a smuggler’s truckload of drugs, authorities said after the arrests.
During questioning, Araujo-Monarrez and Flores-Gaxiola said they had been in the area a couple of days, had been told to interdict drugs and had fired high-powered weapons into the truck, sheriff’s officials said at the time.
A man and a woman were killed and one person was hospitalized for wounds in the upper torso and an ankle. The survivors were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Lt. Michael O’Connor, head of the sheriff’s department’s violent crimes unit, said investigators continue looking for two more suspects.
“We’re still running down the leads that we have, trying to identify through our investigative efforts who the other two are,” he said.
Richard Kastigar, Pima County sheriff’s criminal investigations chief, said investigators have not been able to tie the incident to any of several other fatal attacks this year on illegal immigrants, including two other groups being transported by smugglers in southern Arizona.
On Feb. 8, gunmen in a vehicle tried to force a pickup truck carrying about 20 immigrants along a dirt road in the Ironwood Forest National Monument northwest of Tucson. Three people were shot fatally and two others wounded when the pickup did not stop.
On Jan. 27, four heavily armed men in a van fired on another vehicle near Eloy carrying a dozen illegal immigrants, killing the driver and wounding a 19-year-old man.
And on Jan. 15, three men in camouflage carrying assault rifles attacked a group of marijuana smugglers about 20 miles north of the Mexican border. One man was shot dead, and authorities found another dead man who had fallen down a ravine and suffered head injuries. Two more were wounded and two were unhurt.
“We don’t have any information to tie it to any of the other migrant shootings,” Kastigar said. “But we have not substantiated that they are not related.”