Cuban migrants found shot on makeshift raft near Key West

26 migrants intercepted Saturday afternoon by U.S. Coast Guard

KEY WEST, Fla. – Seven Cuban migrants were found shot Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Coast Guard on a makeshift raft near Key West.

A Coast Guard statement said seven of the 26 migrants on the raft suffered gunshot wounds prior to being interdicted south of Key West.

Six of the wounded migrants were airlifted to Lower Keys Medical Center, where four were treated and released into the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The other two were transferred to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Four of the migrants in federal custody were taken to Church World Service in Doral, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent Frank Miller said.

Those four migrants will be allowed to stay in the United Sates because they reached U.S. soil, Miller said. Under the U.S. "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who've reached U.S. soil are allowed to stay, while those who are intercepted before reaching U.S. land are sent back.

Yasel Cabrera, 34, told Local 10 News that he and 25 others left their small town of Marianao, Cuba, a few miles from Havana, when another group of fleeing Cubans shot him while trying to steal their raft. 

Jorge Luis, who was also shot, said his group confronted the four armed men.

"They said, 'Stay here. That raft is ours,'" Luis told Local 10 News in his native Spanish. "Then we confronted them. We lunged at them and they pulled out guns. It was four people, and they shot us, then ran."

A man and his pregnant girlfriend remained at Jackson Memorial Hospital late Sunday night. Their conditions were not immediately known. 

The remaining 20 migrants are expected to be returned to Cuba after receiving care, the Coast Guard said. 

In a statement, the Coast Guard discouraged attempts to illegally enter the U.S. by sea.

"These trips are extremely dangerous and could lead to loss of life," the statement said. 

The Coast Guard said it is investigating the incident, but not as a criminal investigation.

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