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Two Americans fatally shot at the border had moved to Mexico for economic reasons, boss says

April 5, 2011 | 10:11 am

The commute from Tijuana to San Diego had become routine for friends Sergio Salcido Luna and Kevin Joel Romero. The two Californians, who had moved south of the border to save money according to their employer, thought they would beat the crush of traffic at the border crossing by arriving before 3 a.m.

But Monday morning they never made it to their jobs in San Diego.

As they sat in their Mazda truck at about 2:40 a.m. in the line of cars at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, a gunman ran up and fatally shot both men with a 9-millimeter weapon, according to Baja California authorities. The gunman fled, and authorities said they have not determined a motive for the crime.

Luna, 25, and Romero, 28, both U.S. citizens, were on their way to work at a beer equipment maintenance company in San Diego. The owner, Matt Pelot, said they were hard workers who endured the sleep-depriving commute for family and economic reasons.

Luna, an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter originally from Bakersfield, was training for a bout in June. Romero had moved to Tijuana to live with his girlfriend because she didn’t have a visa to enter the U.S.

“They would come up and greet you with a handshake and a ton of respect. They were just good guys,” said Pelot, owner of West Coast Beverage Maintenance, a company that services draft beer equipment for bars and restaurants.

Baja California Atty. Gen. Rommel Moreno Manjarrez said that a small amount of drugs was found in the pocket of one of the men. Investigators, he said, would probe to see whether the murders were drug related.

Pelot said he didn’t think his employees were drug users or dealers. Luna, he said, would train regularly and Romero was a “family man” who had just finished the process to adopt his girlfriend’s son.

The men were killed about a half-mile south of the San Ysidro crossing as they inched their way forward in one of the lanes approaching the checkpoint. U.S. authorities are assisting in the investigation.

“We are working closely with Mexican authorities to ascertain all the facts,” said Joseph Crook, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.

RELATED:

Aspiring California pro fighter reportedly among 2 fatally shot at border crossing

-- Richard Marosi in San Diego

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