SAN DIEGO — Authorities Thursday publicly identified a 23-year-old Riverside County man who allegedly opened fire on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol personnel during an apparent human-smuggling attempt at San Ysidro Port of Entry, prompting them to return fire, killing him.
Travis James Eckstein of Beaumont died at the scene of Monday evening's shootout at the international border crossing, according to San Diego police.
His girlfriend, Candence Beavers said Eckstein suffered from depression and wouldn't want to hurt anyone.
"Travis did battle with depression, a lot of people our age do," Beavers said. "He had an angel and a devil on his shoulder at all times. He always had a battle like that, but he was larger than life."
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Eckstein's mother, Donna Anderson Kniss, posted a tribute to her son on Facebook that said he was recently diagnosed as bipolar and had suffered many concussions and his "brain didn't work or think like a normal person."
The events that led to the deadly gunfire began about 7:45 p.m. Monday, when Eckstein refused to stop for CBP officers after driving out of Mexico into a secondary inspection area at the port facility, San Diego Police Department Lt. Matt Dobbs said.
As the federal personnel tried to stop Eckstein, his white truck wound up blocked by another vehicle. He then allegedly began firing a gun toward some of the federal agents, getting out of his pickup while continuing to shoot. Seven officers returned fire, mortally wounding him.
Customs personnel performed CPR on Eckstein until paramedics took over the unsuccessful lifesaving attempts, Dobbs said. None of the federal personnel were injured.
Concealed in the back of Eckstein's truck, officials found a pair of Chinese nationals, ages 18 and 27, with no legal status to enter the United States, according to CBP public affairs. The two men, who were unhurt, were interviewed and turned over to Customs officers.
Northbound vehicle and pedestrian operations at the port of entry were suspended for about 30 minutes due to the shooting.
San Diego police homicide detectives were called in to investigate the case, as is standard in all shootings involving law enforcement officers in the city.