- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, the site where a park service officer was killed by gunmen fleeing Mexican authorities last week, has changed from a once-lonely desert preserve to one of the most dangerous hot spots for drug and illegal-immigrant traffic.
The National Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police for the last two years has ranked the location as the most dangerous national park in which to work. The lodge cited "international drug trafficking, inflow of illegal aliens and a workforce that is understaffed to safely manage the problem."
Ranger Kris Eggle, 28, was killed Friday afternoon while trying to apprehend two men fleeing Mexican law enforcement who crossed the border into the United States. One of the men shot Mr. Eggle just below his bulletproof vest.
It was the latest example of a border gone wild, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, said in a telephone interview yesterday en route to a memorial service in Arizona for Mr. Eggle.
"I need the president of the United States to understand the severity of this problem, and to focus not just attention but resources on it and not just some public show of support and effort on one area of the border. We have to put the military down here; we have to help these people," said Mr. Tancredo.
Mr. Tancredo repeatedly has called for beefing up border controls and is investigating the link between drug and alien smugglers and the Mexican police and military.
Efforts to clamp down on smuggling elsewhere on the border have funneled activity to the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and Organ Pipe Cactus. Together, they constitute about 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border southwest of Tucson.
But the park service hasn't kept up with that change in Organ Pipe Cactus, said Randall Kendrick, executive director of the park rangers lodge that ranked the posting as the most dangerous.
"Twenty-five, 30 years ago, Organ Pipe Cactus was a little-visited desert wonderland," he said. Now the staff is about the same size, though tens of thousands of illegal aliens come through the park every year.
Mr. Kendrick said the problem is so bad that drug and alien smugglers have cut their own roads through the park to facilitate their runs. He said the park service needs to increase the staffing and, pending that, should station a "special events" team in Organ Pipe Cactus to prevent instances like Friday's shooting.
Officials with the Pima County Sheriff's Department didn't return a call yesterday, but news reports from Tucson said the two gunmen had performed a drug-related contract killing of four persons in Mexico Thursday night.
Mexican authorities got involved in a shootout with the two men on Friday, then warned American authorities that the two men were fleeing for the border. Mr. Eggle and several U.S. Border Patrol agents responded.
A Border Patrol helicopter spotted the car and relayed its location to agents on the ground, then hovered above the car as agents and Mr. Eggle closed in, Mr. Tancredo said.
Both fleeing men jumped from the car. One was caught by the Border Patrol agents, but the other drew a rifle on Mr. Eggle and shot him. The gunman was shot and killed while trying to cross the border back into Mexico.
No Border Patrol or rangers have reported firing, which means Mexican authorities may have been shooting across the border at the men, Mr. Tancredo said.

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