Originally published September 22, 2009 at 4:21 p.m., updated September 23, 2009 at 8:39 a.m.
SAN DIEGO U.S. authorities shut down the nation's busiest border crossing for about four hours Tuesday afternoon after federal agents fired shots at three vans filled with illegal immigrants whose drivers tried to storm past inspectors, officials said.
Three people were shot and injured in the vans crammed with dozens of illegal immigrants, authorities said, and one of the vans smashed into another vehicle as it tried to bypass border inspectors, injuring a fourth person.
One person who was injured remained in critical condition Tuesday night, authorities said. The others were expected to recover. The 74 people who were inside the vans were taken into federal custody.
San Diego police spokesman Lt. Kevin Rooney said the van drivers tried to storm past inspectors at the San Ysidro port of entry and enter the U.S. without stopping.
Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and a Customs and Border Patrol agent fired shots across nine lines to try to stop the vans, he said. There was no return fire.
"It was human smuggling, definitely," ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.
The San Ysidro port of entry connects San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. About 40,000 vehicles cross into the U.S. at the port each day, and it has 24 northbound lanes.
Those lanes were closed after the 3:30 p.m. incident, causing a rush-hour traffic jam as drivers on the Tijuana side were turned back.
Motorists were told to make their way through Tijuana's crowded streets to San Diego's only other border crossing at Otay Mesa, about five miles to the east.
Eight northbound lanes were eventually reopened around 7:30 p.m.
Rooney said the three vans pulled into the same lane, and the first driver gave his license to a border agent.
When the agent stepped back into the booth to run the license, all three vans drove quickly into the U.S. side.
"They got caught in traffic, and the last one tried to back up. The other two drove wildly looking for an open space to drive through," Rooney said. "That's when they encountered the three agents, who all ended up firing from different vantage points."
The San Diego Police Department's Homicide Unit will investigate the shooting.