FBI and Border Patrol agents, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies and Rio Rico fire and medical personnel gather on Ruby Road after a suspected illegal immigrant was shot. TERRY KETRON / RHOMBIC SKY NEWS IMAGES

A suspected illegal immigrant was shot in the stomach Tuesday morning by a Border Patrol agent northwest of Nogales.

The man was still alive at a Tucson hospital as of Tuesday evening.

The shooting occurred at 9:30 a.m. in the Walker Canyon area, about two miles northeast of Peña Blanca Lake, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. The FBI has taken over the investigation, but the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office learned the following about the incident:

It began when agents with the Border Patrol's horse patrol came upon a group of 12 illegal immigrants in the canyon. The group fled from the agents and one man got knocked down, either by tripping or being bumped by a horse, Estrada said.

Shortly after, an agent shot the man on the ground, according to a woman who witnessed the events. She was one of 11 illegal immigrants apprehended by the Border Patrol.

It's unknown if the Border Patrol agent intentionally or accidentally shot the man, Estrada said. The agent might have been trying to rein in the horse when the shots were fired, he said. He was shot at least once in the abdomen, Estrada said.

"We are not saying that he was shot intentionally," Estrada said. "We are just saying that he was shot."

Due the remoteness of the location, the Border Patrol had to walk the wounded man out of the rugged area to a spot where a helicopter could land.

The 30-year-old man from Nogales, Sonora, was flown to University Medical Center in Tucson where he was in intensive care Tuesday evening, said Julian Etienne, spokesman for the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. He was talking, which is a good sign, he said. His name was not released.

Santa Cruz deputies did not find any guns or drugs at the scene and do not know exactly what happened, Estrada said. The Border Patrol agent involved in the shooting hadn't given Estrada's deputies his account of the incident.

Deputies interviewed four of the 11 illegal immigrants in custody, including the woman who apparently was the only one who saw the shooting.

Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante said the agency couldn't discuss any details of the shooting, citing an FBI investigation.

Manuel Johnson, an FBI spokesman, said he couldn't discuss any details yet.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com