Rolling gunfight on Southwest Freeway kills 1 Several others wounded in possible battle between rival smugglers By ROBERT CROWE and KEVIN MORAN Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle At least one man was killed and several were wounded when rival immigrant-smuggling gangs engaged in a noontime gunbattle that started on the Southwest Freeway and ended on the feeder road, police said. Authorities suspect one gang was attempting to steal a load of immigrants from the other. "It's unknown if it was a coyote operation or a rip of some sort," said Sgt. C.E. Elliott of the Houston Police Department homicide division. " ... We're still looking at that." About noon, the occupants of two trucks — one carrying at least 10 people — exchanged gunfire while heading northbound on the freeway, Elliott said. The vehicles exited at Bissonnet and ran a red light before one truck crashed into an older model Honda Accord that was not part of the chase. Elliott said the occupants of the two trucks "then proceeded to get out of their vehicles to have a shootout." One man collapsed beneath the overpass, on Bissonnet, apparently from gunshot wounds. "Not only was he shot, but one of the vehicles that fled the scene ran over him," Elliott said. That man's condition was unknown. One pickup fled north on the feeder road and stopped in a strip center parking lot about one block away. The truck had three flat tires, its passenger windows were shot out and at least five bullet holes riddled the exterior; one man inside was pronounced dead at the scene. The shopping center includes a Chinese restaurant, Chase Bank branch and the Wiz-Kid Childcare Learning Center. Also nearby is the Star Kids Daycare. The incident caused a traffic backup that lasted for hours, with officials' closing off the northbound feeder road and diverting traffic onto Bissonnet. In the shooting's aftermath, truck parts and articles of clothing, including a shoe, were strewn along the intersection, and the roadway was stained with blood. Crime scene investigators had taped off the area and marked the location of two bullet casings. Elliott said several people were taken to local hospitals. Police are still searching for the second vehicle, described as a U.S.-made pickup or SUV. "It's a very chaotic scene out here," Elliott said. He added, "There was a large number of occupants, up to 10 people in one truck." Several people were detained. About 3 p.m., at least two men were being held in an HPD patrol car in the strip center parking lot. "We do not know whether they are suspects or complainants," Elliott said. A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the federal agency had not received a call from HPD asking for its involvement. "If they call us, we will respond," said Luisa Deason, ICE spokeswoman in Houston. Homicide detectives are asking local hospitals whether any Hispanic males have shown up with recent gunshot wounds. Anyone who witnessed the shooting, particularly anyone who may have noted a license plate number, is urged to call HPD homicide at 713-308-3600.