Published: 04.26.2007

Authorities respond to shooting, find at least 45 illegal entrants
By Dale Quinn
Pima County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a shooting and possible kidnapping Thursday morning and stumbled upon 45 to 50 illegal entrants on a South Side property.

A woman called 911 about 7:10 a.m. and said her husband, Rito Najera, 43, had been shot and forced into a black Lincoln Navigator, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

She called authorities from the Nogales Highway and Hughes Access Road area, near the Tucson International Airport, and said she was following the Lincoln Navigator, Barkman said. The vehicle was last seen going west on East Valencia Road from Nogales Highway.

Deputies responded to the area but were unable to find the sport utility vehicle or the woman, so they went to her home in the 10400 block of South Epperson Lane, near Old Nogales Highway and East Summit Street, and talked to the woman there.

There were obvious signs of struggle, Barkman said. A trail of blood led from the back yard to the front of the property, where the woman said her husband was forced into the SUV.

A survey of the property, which had a home and several trailers, revealed 45 to 50 illegal entrants. The entrants said they hadn’t had water or food for days, according to Barkman. Deputies also noticed that the residence was equipped with electronic surveillance cameras.

Barkman did not know what motivated the kidnapping or if the entrants were being held against their will.

The entrants were to be questioned then turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol. Detectives from the Sheriff’s Department robbery and assault unit along with Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are investigating, Barkman said.

Deputies hadn’t found Najera or the Lincoln Navigator by noon Thursday, Barkman said.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or 88-CRIME.

Published: 04.26.2007
Man believed kidnapped had string of arrests
Tucson Citizen
Sheriff's deputies have named a man feared injured during a violent kidnapping on the far South Side as a 43-year -old with a string of arrests, but no major convictions.
The Citizen is withholding his name because its policy is not to name crime victims without their consent. It was included in an earlier posting.
While a large number of suspected illegal immigrants were found on the man's property, Deputy Dawn Barkman said, no motive for the kidnapping has been determined by detectives and there have been no ransom demands or calls of any kind from the kidnappers.
Detectives this afternoon were searching the man's home and several mobile homes on the property, as well as about six cars parked there. Barkman could not say early this afternoon what evidence, if any, had been found.
Kidnappings for ransom involving illegal immigrants are common in the desert around Tucson, but uncommon in the outlying urban area, said sheriff's Bureau Chief Richard Kastigar, head of investigations.
The man's arrests since 1990 include being picked up by law offices on suspicion of aggravated assault, assault knowingly causing injury and endangerment, according to the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court Web site. Those charges were dismissed.
In Tucson City Court, he faced charges including assault and disorderly conduct: fighting, both of which were dismissed, and criminal damage, disposition of which was not listed.
He never has been convicted of a serious enough charge in Arizona to get him a prison sentence here, according to the state Department of Corrections Web site.
His wife reported seeing her husband forced by some men into a black Lincoln Navigator after hearing shots near their home, Barkman said.
The woman was in pursuit of the SUV when she called deputies at 7:07 a.m. from East Hughes Access Road at Nogales Highway, but she lost sight of it heading west on West Valencia Road.
At the South Epperson Lane home, deputies found a blood trail leading to a roadside gate on the fenced property, Barkman said.
Deputies also found some 45 to 50 suspected illegal immigrants on the property near South Old Nogales Highway and East Summit Street, about 10 miles south of downtown, she said.
Barkman this afternoon could not say whether the man had been shot or injured in some other way.
Video security cameras are mounted on the home and the fence around the property, Barkman noted.
The sheriff's new border crime unit is assisting detectives in the investigation, which is in its early stages, Barkman said.
The individuals suspected of being illegal immigrant were being questioned, and a search continued this afternoon.