Federal agents working along the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego dodged a fireball when a man lodged a Molotov cocktail at them Wednesday.
The man threw a bottle filled with gasoline and a lighted rag as he was crossing into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on foot around 1 p.m.
The device landed about a yard away from an inspection booth in one of the vehicle lanes and exploded into flames.
The criminal complaint said the bottle exploded just two feet from four officers who were in the process of inspecting a vehicle.
Photos distributed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show the fireball and a large plume of black smoke rising from the scene.
There were no injuries.
Special agents with the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service arrested 39-year-old Ricardo Martinez Diaz, a U.S. citizen.
Investigators claim Diaz admitted to throwing the bottle at the officers.
San Diego attorney and legal analyst John Kirby is a former federal prosecutor.
He said the government and the FBI are going to take this incident very seriously.
“It sounds like it like have been an amateurish attempt, but any attempt to harm federal officers is taken very seriously by the U.S. attorney’s office,” Kirby said.
Kirby recalled one case when he was a federal prosecutor that involved an alleged undocumented immigrant defendant who bit a U.S. Border Patrol officer until he bled.
“And the amount of resources that were put into it was astounding,” he said.
While it may be the act of a lone individual who doesn’t like the officers or the policy of the CBP, Kirby said there will be a follow up investigation to see if the defendant is part of a something larger, a coordinated effort.
“If they find that, they could be looking at terrorism charges something even more serious than assault on a federal officer. So there will be significant further investigation,” he said.
The device detonated in an area described as between the international boundary and the CBP inspection booths, officials said.
Agents used fire extinguishers to put out the fire before any damage was done.
Diaz is scheduled for a court appearance on Monday, Dec. 23.