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Human trafficking may be behind I.E. shooting

March 12, 2010 12:31:03 AM PST
An investigation is under way on Friday morning into a deadly shooting in the Inland Empire that left two people dead and another injured. Authorities say the shooting may be related to human trafficking.Moreno Valley police found two shooting victims inside a house on the 21000 block of Bay Avenue at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday after several neighbors reported hearing gunfire. Authorities believe the house was used to hide illegal immigrants.

"It was real quiet around here, and I heard a bunch of gunshots. It sounded like 7, 10 maybe, and I wasn't sure if they were going back and forth or if just one person was shooting, and then about six seconds later, I heard a car speed off," said an unidentified neighbor.

One man was declared dead at the scene, while a second man was taken to a local hospital, where he died a short time later. Hours later, police located a third victim, who somehow made his way to a cell phone store more than a mile away after being shot several times. He was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive.

According to the Press Enterprise, the third victim told people at the store that he was from Puebla, Mexico. He told them he had been brought into the U.S. with 10 other people by smugglers, known as coyotes.

The man reportedly said the coyotes were demanding more money, nearly $4,000 from him or his family members, causing a fight that ended with the deadly shooting.

The names of the victims have not been released, pending notification of next of kin.

"It appears that they're Mexican nationals, undocumented immigrants, and we've also contacted the Mexican consulate for some assistance in that area," said Sgt. Joe Borja of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities are still looking for the gunmen. Federal immigration agents have been assisting in the investigation. Anyone with any information is urged to call police at (951) 955-2777.