Federal court records detail the case against a suspected human trafficker accused of opening fire on a U.S. Border Patrol agent during a traffic stop last month near the Bootheel of New Mexico.
Roberto Esquivel is charged federally with attempted murder of an officer, discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, among other charges in the Jan. 5 incident near Animas.
The agent was struck by two bullets in his bulletproof vest and returned fire as Esquivel fled, according to court records. Esquivel flipped the vehicle soon after, injuring several migrants who were inside.
The agent has not been identified.
It was around 11:30 a.m. when the Border Patrol agent stopped a car that “displayed unusual behavior” on N.M. 146, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Esquivel, a U.S. citizen, gave the agent his driver’s license and the agent asked the other five people inside where they were from.
Authorities said the passengers told the agent they were from Mexico and in the country illegally and the agent asked Esquivel to get out of the car. Esquivel reportedly opened the door but “suddenly” pulled out a handgun and fired at the agent.
The agent ran across the street to find cover and returned fire as Esquivel sped away, according to the complaint. The agent then discovered he had been struck by two bullets in the back of his bulletproof vest.
Authorities said Esquivel crashed the car and agents found a handgun more than 100 yards from where the car flipped. The migrants told agents they pleaded with Esquivel to stop the car after the shooting but he told them to “shut up.”
Esquivel told agents he was driving the migrants to Deming and hid a gun under his leg so the agent wouldn’t see it, according to the complaint. Esquivel said he “panicked” when the agent asked him to get out and fired at him multiple times.
Authorities said Esquivel told them he tried to run away after the crash, tossing his gun and collapsing in the desert. Esquivel said he had transported migrants at least four other times and used Whatsapp to coordinate with others.
Esquivel told agents he was expecting to be paid $300 “a head” for each migrant after delivered them to Deming.