An El Paso man has pleaded guilty to shooting a Border Patrol agent during a human smuggling attempt


An El Paso man has pleaded guilty in federal court in New Mexico to attempted murder for shooting a U.S. Border Patrol agent during a human smuggling attempt.

Roberto Esquivel, 25, pleaded guilty on January 30 to attempted murder of a U.S. officer, aggravated assault on a U.S. officer with a deadly weapon, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. and conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, according to federal court records.

The guilty plea was entered before U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico Chief Judge Gregory P. Wormuth in Las Cruces.

Esquivel was arrested on Jan. 5, 2023, and remains jailed, federal court records show. He will remain in prison until his sentence is issued.

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No date has been set for the sentencing hearing. A plea agreement filed in federal court stipulated that Esquivel and federal prosecutors agreed to a 19-year prison sentence. A federal judge must accept the agreement at the sentencing hearing.

The plea agreement stipulates that Esquivel was facing up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the attempted murder, aggravated assault and firearms charges. He was facing 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. The plea agreement does not state what Esquivel will receive on the conspiracy charge.

A Border Patrol agent fired twice into a ballistic vest during a traffic stop

A U.S. Border Patrol agent conducted a traffic stop at approximately 11:30 a.m. on January 5, 2023, on Interstate 146 near Animas, New Mexico. A black sedan was stopped because the driver was exhibiting “unusual behavior while driving,” an affidavit from the federal complaint states.

The agent was wearing “civilian clothing and a government-issued ballistic vest marked ‘Federal Police Agent’ on the front and displaying his USBP badge patch,” the affidavit said.

When the agent got into the vehicle, Esquivel pulled a handgun from the center console and placed it under his right leg, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico said.

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The agent walked up to the driver’s side window and began speaking with Esquivel, who gave the agent his U.S. driver’s license. The agent then asked five other people in the car in Spanish which country they were from and whether they had legal documents to remain in the United States.

The five passengers told the agent they were from Mexico and were illegally residing in the United States, the affidavit states. The agent then asked Esquivel to exit the vehicle.

Esquivel began to open the door but “suddenly” pulled out a black handgun and shot the customer, the affidavit said. The agent ran back across the road to find cover and returned fire. Esquivel then fled in the car.

The agent covered his gun and realized he had been shot twice in the back of his ballistic vest, the affidavit states. A plea agreement filed in federal court states that Esquivel fired at least four shots.

The agent’s supervisor arrived and took the agent to a hospital in Deming, New Mexico.

Officials said Esquivel lost control of the vehicle and it overturned several times. Officials said the man fled the crash site and threw the gun into the desert before collapsing.

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The written statement stated that a number of people in the car were injured in the accident. Esquivel and Mehajer were taken to an El Paso hospital for treatment. Court documents do not mention the injuries suffered by Esquivel and Al-Muhajir.

Law enforcement officers found a black Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun about 150 yards east of where the car crashed in the desert, the affidavit states.

Shooter tells migrants to “shut up”

FBI agents interviewed the immigrants later that day. The immigrants identified Esquivel as the driver of the car and the shooter, the affidavit stated.

At least two immigrants told agents they saw Esquivel carrying the black handgun before and during the shooting.

The migrants pleaded with Esquivel to stop the car as he fled. Esquivel told the immigrants to “shut up,” the affidavit said.

Esquivel claims he panicked and shot the agent

FBI agents and Homeland Security investigators interviewed Esquivel the next day at a hospital in El Paso. He was read his Miranda rights and agreed to speak to agents.

He told agents that Esquivel was taking immigrants to Deming, New Mexico, when he was stopped. Officials said he picked up the migrants in El Paso.

He initially thought a police officer was stopping him, but then realized it was a Border Patrol agent from the markings on the agent’s ballistic vest, the affidavit states. He told the agents that he hid the gun under his leg so that the Border Patrol agent would not see it.

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Esquivel said he panicked when the agent asked him to get out of the car, so he pulled his gun and shot the agent, the affidavit states. He added that the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver found in the desert was the gun he used in the shooting.

In a second interview with agents, Esquivel said he illegally transported immigrants into the country at least four times, the affidavit states. He said he would talk to the smuggler via the WhatsApp messaging app to arrange where to pick up and drop off the migrants.

Esquivel said he expected to receive “$300 per person” for each immigrant he took to Deming, the affidavit said.

Aaron Martinez can be reached at or on Twitter @AMartinezEPT.

This article originally appeared in the El Paso Times: An El Paso man pleads guilty to shooting a Border Patrol agent

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