SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) - If there was a reason Travis Eckstein was in Mexico on Monday, his girlfriend said she didn’t know about it before he left.
Eckstein, 23, was shot to death by border agents after opening fire while trying to cross into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Eighteen-year-old Cadence Beavers said she began dating Eckstein in 2018. She said he had stayed at her house in Cherry Valley the night before the shooting and left around 7:30 a.m. on June 3.
Beavers said Eckstein told her he was going to work though she didn’t know the details.
“I didn’t know who it was. He just told me it was for this guy he got a gig with,” she told 10News.
But later that afternoon, he texted her that he was heading down to the border.
“I had no idea what he was doing down there,” Beavers said.
She said Eckstein sent his final text at around 3 p.m. She asked if he had crossed back into the United States.
He replied, “Not yet.”
Around 7 p.m., Eckstein made it to the San Ysidro Port of Entry and was directed to a secondary screening area.
According to San Diego police and corroborated with video obtained by 10News, Eckstein fired a gun several times while inside his truck.
Border officials fired back, but Eckstein still managed to get out of the truck. In video obtained by 10News, Eckstein can be seen walking around the driver's side of the truck and begins shooting again.
Border officials fired back, eventually striking and killing Eckstein.
Inside the truck, Customs and Border Protection officers found two Chinese men ages 18 and 27. They were not injured in the barrage of gunfire.
CBP said the two men had no legal status to enter the U.S., turning the scene into a human smuggling investigation.
“The CBP officers risked their own lives to protect the public from this gunman,” said Pete Flores, CBP’s Director of Field Operations. “Human smuggling is always dangerous. This unfortunate incident demonstrates the total disregard smuggling organizations have for what they consider to be cargo.”
Eckstein’s girlfriend said the fact that he even traveled to Mexico was unusual.
“I didn’t even know if he had a passport,” said Beavers.
She was even more confused by the reports of the smuggling attempt.
“That makes no sense for any reason,” she said.
Beavers described Eckstein as loving and adventurous, and “always on a mission to find somewhere breathtaking.”
She also called him a hard worker who was estranged from his family and had been living out of his truck while working construction jobs.
However, Eckstein did struggle with depression, she said.
“He always had an angel and devil on his shoulder,” said Beavers. “All he ever wanted was to be happy and to love and to work hard. He had big dreams in life.”
Eckstein’s mother, Donna Kniss, told 10News she tried to support her son but had minimal contact with him after he turned 18.
"We are all shocked, devastated and heartbroken," she wrote on Facebook.
She said he had been using drugs which caused problems for their relationship.
“I set some boundaries and he did not want to follow them, so he left home,” Kniss told 10News.
Kniss said he was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been acting more irrational lately.
Beavers said she was aware of his relationship with his mom, saying it was a good thing that he had moved out.
“He needed that to grow up,” she said.
While dealing with her own grief, Kniss said she was also heartbroken for the officers and bystanders who witnessed the shooting and could have ended up in the crossfire.
Why he pulled out the gun was another mystery to Beavers. She said they had been discussing moving to Arizona to buy a house and start a family.
“We had goals. We were about to start our life together,” she said.
Beavers didn’t believe he was suicidal and said she hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary in his behavior the night before.
“I wish I could connect the dots from what happened at 8:30 to 3:00, because somewhere in there something went wrong, and my boyfriend is killed because of it,” Beavers said.