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3 hunters detained after 2 Texas students are shot

December 13, 2011 | 10:23 am

Edinburg
Three deer hunters suspected of firing shots that wounded two south Texas middle school students Monday have been detained, and one of them arrested on suspicion of trespassing, officials said.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino held a news conference Tuesday with school officials to say that the two students were wounded by shots likely fired from land near Harwell Middle School outside Edinburg, about 20 miles north of the Mexican border.

The students, age 13 and 14, were participating in outdoor tryouts for the basketball team about 4:45 p.m. Monday when the shots were fired, school district spokesman Gilbert Tagle told The Times. He said officials believe the shots came from an adjacent property, possibly from a mile away.

A number of other after-school activities were taking place at the time, Tagle said, including a concert and a faculty meeting. After the shooting, he said, school nurses rushed to assist the wounded boys.

On Tuesday, one of the two boys wounded in the shooting was in critical condition at a hospital in nearby McAllen after surgery late Monday to remove a bullet, Tagle said. Investigators were comparing the bullet to guns confiscated from the hunters, he said.

The other boy was at another McAllen hospital in stable condition, Tagle said.

Three hunters were taken in for questioning Monday night, Trevino said.

Tagle said two of the men who were detained, each with deer hunting rifles, had permission to be hunting on two parcels of land leased to hunters, but the third, who was on another piece of land, did not have permission. He was arrested on suspicion of trespassing, his semi-automatic rifle confiscated, and he was being held at Hidalgo County Jail on Tuesday, Tagle said.

“This gentleman was poaching, did not have permission to hunt there and has immigration problems,” Tagle said.

None of the men's names had been released Tuesday.

About 1,200 students attend Harwell Middle School, which opened in October in a rural area of the county next to an elementary school. Tagle said that neither school, nor the more than three dozen other campuses in the 945-acre Hidalgo district, have ever had problems with hunters before.

“A lot of our people live out in the country. The schools are built to accommodate the population out here rather than them worrying about getting into town,” he said.

The school district increased security Tuesday and brought counselors to the middle school to talk to students and parents, Tagle said.

Two pieces of land next to the middle school are routinely leased to hunters, Tagle said, adding that  the sheriff had told him no law bars hunting on the properties.

Tagle said the district plans to erect a cinder block wall "in the area where the hunting goes on" to better protect students. It was not clear how soon the wall would be built or how much it would cost, he said.

Trevino did not return calls Tuesday.

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston

Photo: A mother picks up her daughter at Carmen Avila Elementary after a shooting at the nearby campus of Harwell Middle School Monday in Edinburg, Texas. Authorities suspect hunters may have shot two South Texas middle school students who were wounded by gunfire while trying out for a basketball team at the school. Credit: Delcia Lopez/The Monitor/Assoviated Press.

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