Friday, September 7, 2007

U.S. law-enforcement authorities were confronted by gunfire from automatic weapons as they chased and caught a drug-smuggling suspect in west Texas trying to flee back into Mexico, the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday.

No one was hurt and the gunmen were not identified, although the area has been the scene of similar incidents over the past several months, including a confrontation in January when heavily armed men in Mexican military uniforms fired on Texas officers with a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on the back of a camouflaged Humvee.

The men were identified at the time by Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West as “soldiers.”

In the latest incident, a 33-year-old Mexican national was caught Wednesday morning by U.S. Border Patrol agents and Hudspeth County sheriff’s deputies after officials said he abandoned 1,083 pounds of marijuana in an SUV near the U.S.-Mexico border after hitting tire spikes set up by agents on a dirt road near Fort Hancock, Texas.

It’s not clear if the gunfire was aimed at the U.S. law-enforcement officers, but Sheriff West ordered the area cleared and began a search for the gunmen south of the capture site by seven of his deputies. He said it was determined that the gunfire had come from the Mexican side of border.



In the January incident, Hudspeth County deputies pursued three SUVs back to Mexico after spotting them driving north from the Rio Grande. The pursuit ended on the U.S. side of the border when the deputies encountered 10 heavily armed men in what Sheriff West described as battle-dress uniforms.

At that time, deputies found 1,400 pounds of marijuana in one of the vehicles abandoned after it blew a tire early in the pursuit. Another made it into Mexico and a third got stuck in the Rio Grande and was burned by the “soldiers” after it was unloaded.

In November, the Border Patrol chased a dump truck full of marijuana in the same area when it also got stuck in the river while trying to return to Mexico. While agents sought to unload 3 tons of marijuana, the driver — who had fled — returned with a heavily armed group of men wearing Mexican military uniforms and carrying military-style weapons.

The soldiers backed the agents away and bulldozed the truck back into Mexico.

Sheriff West said in the latest incident, Border Patrol agents were ordered not to engage unknown gunman on the Texas-Mexico border after the foot pursuit and capture, and left the area before the search by his deputies began.

But Border Patrol spokesman Douglas Mosier in El Paso, Texas, said agents tracked the marijuana load out of Mexico, sought to stop the vehicle when it entered the U.S., pursued the suspected smuggler and apprehended him. He said the agents, who also heard the gunfire, left the area only after it was secured.

Since 1996, there have been of 216 confirmed incursions by the Mexican military into the U.S.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide