PHOENIX (Reuters) - One man was shot dead and a second wounded after a group of illegal entrants from Mexico came under fire from suspected bandits in desert south of Phoenix, authorities said on Thursday.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office said a group of 15 illegal entrants were resting up in desert near Interstate 8 south of Phoenix early on Thursday, when they came under fire from a suspected "rip crew" -- bandits who prey on illegal immigrants and drug traffickers.
"It was a group of about 15 who walked up from Mexico. While they were resting there, another unknown group of individuals approached them and opened fire," Gaffney told Reuters by telephone.
"There is evidence that these individuals ... were involved in drug trafficking," Gaffney said, adding that "it could have been a rip crew" that attacked them.
A 35-year-old Mexican man was shot once in the abdomen in the attack. He managed to walk out of the desert to a truck stop on the interstate, from where he called his daughter in Phoenix, who then dialed 911, Gaffney said.
The injured man was treated at the scene, then taken by air ambulance to a hospital in the Phoenix valley where he went into surgery.
During a subsequent search of the crime scene, officers found the body of a second Hispanic male, also in his thirties, was had been shot dead, Gaffney said.
Deputies, Arizona Department of Public Safety officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents were continuing to search the area for other possible victims, witnesses or suspects.
Arizona straddles a furiously trafficked corridor for smugglers who haul illegal immigrants and drugs north to the United States and run guns and illicit cash profits south to Mexico.
In a controversial bid to curb illegal immigration and border crime, Arizona passed a law last April requiring police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they detained who they suspected of being in the country illegally.
Key parts of the law were blocked by a U.S. federal judge before they came into effect last July. Arizona appealed the ruling, which was upheld by a federal appeals court earlier this week.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)