PHOENIX - Authorities have captured 17 suspected illegal immigrants in southern Arizona, continuing their manhunt yesterday for smugglers who they say shot and slightly wounded a sheriff's deputy in a remote desert area 50 miles south of Phoenix.
Three of those captured overnight Friday matched descriptions from the wounded Pinal County deputy and were questioned yesterday, sheriff's Lt. Tamatha Villar said. The deputy was released from the hospital, and was recovering at home.
The shooting came amid a growing national debate over the state's new law cracking down on illegal immigration.
The Arizona Legislature narrowed the controversial law in response to allegations that the measure legalized racial profiling and forced police to determine the immigration status of everyone they encountered on the streets.
The initial law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last week, required police to determine a person's immigration status if officers formed a reasonable suspicion about their legality during any "lawful contact." That led to suggestions by some legal experts that police would be obligated to scrutinize even people who asked for directions.
Lawmakers Thursday night changed the language to require scrutiny only of people who police stop, detain or arrest. They also changed a section of the bill that barred officers from "solely" using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country illegally; opponents had argued that that would allow race to be a factor.
The new law's passage came amid increasing anger in Arizona about violence, drug smugglers and illegal immigration drop houses.
Arizona politicians called Friday's shooting an outrage and urged the federal government to do more to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Friday afternoon, Deputy Louie Puroll, 53, was patrolling near Interstate 8 when he came upon a stash of marijuana bales and five suspected smugglers. At least one of the suspects opened fire on him, tearing a chunk of skin from his back.
Puroll radioed in that he had been shot, setting off a frantic hourlong search for the deputy in the remote desert, Villar said.