By: MaryEllen Resendez
CASA GRANDE, AZ - Two men shot earlier this week could be the result of the ongoing battle between Mexican drug cartels now spilling over deep into Arizona, officials say.
Pinal County investigators say an area known as the smuggling corridor now stretches from Mexico's border to metro Phoenix.
The area, once an area for family hiking and off road vehicles has government signs warning residents of the drug and human smugglers.
Night vision cameras have photographed cartel members with military arms delivering drugs to vehicles along Highway 8.
"We are three counties deep. How is it that you see pictures like these, not American with semi and fully automatic rifles. How is that okay?" asked Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Babeu said he no longer has control over parts of his county.
"We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don't have the resources here locally to fight this," he said at a Friday news conference.
Five weeks ago Deputy Louie Puroll was ambushed and shot as he tracked six drug smugglers.
Sheriff Babeu said the ambush mirrored military tactics.
Even more disturbing, Babeu said the man who called in to 911 operators for help seemed to know a lot about the sheriff deputy's case.
"He told operators they could find him where the deputy was shot and talked about our search helicopter. Things that were not talked about on the news," Babeu said.
When operators asked the fatally wounded man how he knew the area, he claimed he sold cantelope near mile post 150.
Both men were found dead several hours later.
Detectives say next to them was a Bushmaster automatic rifle used by police officers for patrolling. It does not appear to be stolen.
Investigators also revealed that an autopsy showed strap marks on one of the men that likely came from hauling heavy loads, they suspect were drugs.
One of the men, deputies say, was voluntarily deported seven times.
Babeu said he doesn't believe the drug cartel problems will not be solved when SB 1070 becomes a law, or with President Obama's promise of 1,200 troops spread out among four border states.
"It will fall short. What is truly needed in 3,000 soldiers for Arizona alone," Babeu said.