The Tucson Sector’s chief patrol agent, Rodolfo Karisch, held a press conference at the Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson on Wednesday.

A Border Patrol agent was checking sensor activity when he was shot and wounded Tuesday south of Arivaca, an agency official said.

The agent was alone and on foot when an unknown number of assailants attacked him around 4:30 a.m. in a remote, mountainous area near Ruby Road and Chimney Canyon. One of the assailants fired several shots at the agent from close range, Tucson Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodolfo Karisch said at a news conference Wednesday in Tucson.

“The agent was struck several times and it is believed that he returned fire,” Karisch said.

The agent was wearing a bulletproof vest, he said.

+2 

Cattle owned by rancher Jim Chilton graze near Arivaca, Ariz. Chilton said illegal immigrants and smugglers frequently traverse pastures used by the Chilton Ranch.

The agent is in “good spirits and stable condition,” Karisch said.

Karisch did not provide the name of the agent or details of his injuries.

The agent is a 21-year veteran of the Border Patrol and an experienced paramedic, Karisch said. He cared for his wounds and called for help after he reached his vehicle. Other agents coordinated an emergency evacuation by air ambulance to a hospital.

The Border Patrol tries to pair up agents when they patrol dangerous areas, but that is not always possible, he said.

Being an agent is an “extremely dangerous job” and they “should always keep their guard up when they’re patrolling,” Karisch said.

Multiple people were arrested in the area on immigration violations, but none have been tied to the shooting, he said.

Karisch said the investigation is in its early stages.

The agency released very few details about the shooting Tuesday, postponing a 4 p.m. press conference shortly after it was announced.

Jim Chilton, a local rancher, said he was told by the Border Patrol on Tuesday that the agent was struck in the hand, leg and into his protective vest, “which worked, thank God,” he said. “How he got from that state to be rescued, I have no idea.”

The shooting happened in the Chimney Canyon area, about 10 miles from the border and close to Chilton’s ranch house in an area frequently used by drug and people smugglers.

“Chimney Canyon is a wide canyon which undoubtedly has cartel scouts on the mountains that guide drug packers and individuals just trying to get into the U.S.,” Chilton said, adding he has seen increased traffic in the area during the last couple of months.

The FBI is leading the shooting investigation. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility, and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office are assisting the FBI with the investigation.

Karisch asked anyone with information about the shooting to call the FBI or report it to tips.fbi.gov

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar