A Mexican man who was shot by border inspectors was charged Friday with assaulting a federal officer, accused of raising a starter gun as he tried to flee the nation's busiest border crossing on foot.
Customs and Border Protection officers shot Hugo Veytia as he wrestled with inspectors at the San Ysidro port of entry, according to a federal complaint. Veytia allegedly pulled a replica gun _ the kind used to start an auto race _ from his waist and pointed it at officers and travelers.
Veytia, 47, of Tijuana, underwent surgery and was expected to survive, authorities said.
Thursday's shooting closed San Ysidro to U.S.-bound pedestrians for two hours as hundreds of travelers stood in line. Dan Swezy, who was returning from a doctor's appointment in Tijuana, heard about eight shots.
"Everybody started dropping to the ground," Swezy said Friday. "I didn't know if it was because they were hit or because they were trying to get out of the way. It was a lot of chaos and hysteria."
Swezy and others ran toward Mexico, with federal officers close behind.
"They were running toward us with their guns out, screaming at us to get out of the way and get down," he said.
Swezy, 49, said he was among about 200 people held in a courtyard for questioning as potential witnesses. People were shaken and children cried. He missed his flight home to Tucson, Ariz.
According to the complaint, Veytia tried to walk past a border inspector without providing identification and got into a scuffle with officers as he headed for the exit to the United States.
San Diego police Lt. Kevin Rooney said Veytia fired the starter gun once into the air. The complaint says only that Veytia raised what looked like a silver handgun.
"It appears to be a semiautomatic weapon to the naked eye," said Rooney. "It's metal, silver in color, with rubber grips on it."
Rooney declined to say how many times Veytia was shot or where.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pursued charges against Veytia, who did not have an attorney listed in court documents. San Diego police are investigating whether the officers' use of force was justified.
About 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians enter the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing each day.
Last week, all U.S.-bound traffic was halted at the crossing after scaffolding installed to protect cars from overhead construction collapsed onto eight lanes, seriously injuring a construction worker. Ten others were taken to hospitals with minor injuries