El Paso, Texas – Cross-border violence has taken on a whole new meaning.
On Tuesday, a woman who was shopping in El Paso, Texas became the first person to be struck by bullets that flew across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The woman, who is 48 and was pushing a stroller on a busy downtown EL Paso street when the bullets flew over, was hit in the calf and wounded, authorities said.
Her name has not been released.
Gregg Allen, El Paso's chief of police, said the wound was caused by a "full metal jacket hard-nosed bullet" like those used in assault rifles. She was struck at the same time Juarez police were battling alleged carjackers a few hundred feet from the U.S. border. Allen said reports indicate up to 50 shots were fired in that gunfight.
The victim was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was treated and released.
El Paso Mayor John Cook asked residents to remain calm, saying there is "no way to prevent incidents like this from happening" and the odds of getting hit by a stray bullet are minimal.
Many people who were in the area at first didn't realize what had happened.
"We didn't hear anything. The first thing we heard was the firemen coming, but we didn't know what was happening," said Luis Gomez, a pedestrian who was shopping in the same area where the woman was hit.
Police notified the public school district about the shooting and three El Paso schools were put on lockdown.
The bullet was sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety for ballistic analysis, but Allen said it is unlikely the owner of the gun will be found.
Since drug-related violence in Juarez spiked in 2008, bullets have struck El Paso buildings, including a local high school, City Hall and the University of Texas at El Paso. However, this is the first time a person has been hit.
Juarez and El Paso share a large metropolitan area. Their downtown areas are separated by the Rio Grande and the border fence. While El Paso has been dubbed one of the safest cities in the U.S., Juarez's homicide rate put it among the most dangerous cities in the hemisphere.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott long has complained that Mexico’s drug gang violence has become a crime issue in the Lone Star state.
In November, Abbott sent a request to President Obama to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexican border that runs along the state.
In the letter, Abbott, who is Republican, noted that violence increasingly has been spilling over from Mexico into Texas. He cited an incident in early 2011 in which highway workers repairing a road close to a drug-smuggling area “were fired upon from the southern side of the border.”
He added that on various occasions, drug smugglers fired at U.S. Border Patrol agents and Texas law enforcement
Abbott’s letter came on the heels of a shooting between cartel operatives and Texas law enforcement that resulted in a deputy sheriff being shot three times.
“I implore you to aggressively confront this escalating threat,” Abbot said in his letter. “The safety and security of the Americans you have pledged to defend is at risk because of the cartel battles spilling across our border."
"To protect American lives," the letter continued, "your administration must immediately dedicate more manpower to border security—especially along the 1,254 mile Texas border, which remains unacceptably porous.”
This story contains material from The Associated Press.