Federal authorities are searching for a notorious human smuggler who struck a Border Patrol agent in the face with a rock after a foiled smuggling attempt in the mountains of eastern San Diego County .
Border Patrol agents spotted a man believed to be Martel Valencia-Cortez, 39, allegedly smuggling 14 people through wet, rocky terrain near Jacumba Hot Springs about 7 p.m. Sunday, federal officials said.
When Valencia-Cortez saw authorities closing in, he ran, throwing a softball-sized rock as agents got closer, officials said.
The agent who was hit in the face shot at Valencia-Cortez, but authorities don’t believe he was injured. He was last spotted fleeing toward Mexico. The agent received medical attention for a cut and bruising.
The 14 people he was suspected of smuggling into the U.S. were arrested and interviewed. They told investigators the man who took them through the mountains was Valencia-Cortez.
Border Patrol officials have called Valencia-Cortez one of San Diego’s most dangerous human smugglers. The Mexican national has a violent criminal history spanning more than a decade, including driving into oncoming traffic on roads and freeways, intimidating and threatening people he’s smuggled, assaulting agents and resisting arrest.
He was released from prison in September after being sentenced for human smuggling in July 2013.
Valencia-Cortez is described as 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo on his right shoulder and is considered armed and dangerous.
Authorities asked the public to be on the lookout for Valencia-Cortez, but not to approach him. Anyone who spots him should call Border Patrol dispatchers at (619) 498-9900.(Lyndsay Winkley)
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