EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Three people kidnapped and assaulted in South Texas by a Border Patrol agent are a mother, her underage daughter and another girl not related to them who had all come from Honduras, a diplomatic official said Friday.
Karol Escalante, a spokeswoman for the Honduran embassy in Washington, D.C., also said the three are recovering at a hospital in McAllen. She would not elaborate on their injuries.
The FBI believes Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares, who was later found dead in his home, is responsible for kidnapping and assaulting the three. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency of which the Border Patrol is part, has said that during the course of their regular operations Wednesday night agents encountered a woman who said she had been attacked by a man. They started a search that led them to a second female.
A search and recovery operation was organized with other law enforcement agencies, which took authorities early Thursday to Manzanares' home in Mission, a suburb of McAllen, which is close to the Texas-Mexico border about 350 miles from Houston.
When local police approached the agent's apartment, they heard gunshots. When authorities entered the home they found him dead and rescued the third girl. The FBI has said the three were in the country illegally.
The FBI said it is awaiting an autopsy report on Manzanares, who the Border Patrol said had been with the agency since 2008.
A CBP official told The Associated Press that the agent was on duty when he encountered the females and that his shift had ended by the time authorities showed up at his house and he shot himself. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation by the FBI.
The number of apprehensions by the Border Patrol —a figure commonly used to gauge the ebb and flow of illegal border crossers — rose by 16 percent last year to 420,789 undocumented immigrants detained. More than half of those arrests were made in Texas.
Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said last October that much of the increase was due to a rise in the number of people from Central American trying to enter the U.S. in South Texas.
While apprehensions of Mexican nationals remained fairly steady, arrests of immigrants from other countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, rose 55 percent. Limited economic opportunities and widespread gang and drug cartel violence in Central America have driven tens of thousands north along a dangerous route through Mexico.
Associated Press reporter Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.