Border Patrol Diamondback 18 foot airboats patrolling the Rio Grande. These would have been the type of vessels that came under fire from the Mexican side of the border this past weekend in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
U.S. Border Patrol agents fired gunshots into Mexico after coming under attack during a half-ton drug bust and giving chase to a truck along the Rio Grande, U.S. authorities said Monday.
No Border Patrol agents were hurt during the "fire fight" early Saturday in Mission, agency spokeswoman Rosalinda Huey said. She did not say whether Border Patrol gunfire hit anyone, citing the ongoing investigation.
"The firing they received came from the Mexican side," Huey said.
Huey said several Border Patrol agents, at least some of whom were patrolling in boats, were seizing a half-ton of marijuana when they came under gunfire. Federal officials said the shots from Mexico began when a truck that was being chased by another group of Border Patrol agents entered the area.
FBI special agent Jorge Cisneros said the truck, which was on the U.S. side, appeared to be connected to the drug seizure. He said the gunfire from Mexico was a "direct result" of Border Patrol agents doing their jobs.
The FBI did not confirm if driver was apprehended or if the vehicle was seized.
Cisneros described the shootout as brief.
"We're obviously concerned with what happened, that they would be shooting from the Mexico side to us," Cisneros said.
Federal officials did not release how many agents were involved, how many shots were fired or the number of shooters on the Mexico side. Cisneros said the FBI was working with Mexico authorities, including the Mexican military and the Tamaulipas state police, to determine what happened.
It was at least the second time in three months that Border Patrol agents in Texas have fired into Mexico. In June, a Border Patrol agent fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican boy after authorities say a group trying to illegally enter Texas threw rocks at officers near downtown El Paso.
Reports of bullets whizzing across the border from Mexico also are on the rise. At least eight bullets have been fired into El Paso in the last few weeks from the rising violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where drug violence has killed more than 4,000 people since 2009, making it one of the deadliest cities in the world.
Cisneros said he can recall a handful of times in the last few years that gunfire from Mexico has crossed over the border. He said Border Patrol agents "have always been very good about not shooting back unless there is a life-threatening situation."
Huey who would not say whether the agents involved in the shooting still were on patrol. She said agents are authorized to fire their weapons any time they feel lives are at risk, even into Mexico.
"As long as our agents feel their life is in danger, they are allowed lethal (force)," she said.
It is a fact, however, that an increased frequency of attacks on Border Patrol agents and sheriff's deputies patrolling the South Texas border with Mexico have been documented since at least 2005.
The following is an excerpt from a May 2007 National Drug Intelligence Center report titled " South Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis",
Drug-related border violence is also directed at law enforcement officers. Assaults against U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents and sheriffs' deputies in the South Texas HIDTA border area have increased. Law enforcement officers in the region have been fired upon while patrolling areas along the Rio Grande River. Encounters with heavily armed drug traffickers are also common. Drug traffickers wearing military-style clothing and carrying military-grade weapons, including assault rifles, pose a serious threat to law enforcement officers along the border.
A report entered as written testimony by Zapata County (Texas) Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security in 2009 also documented other incidents of violence directed at U.S law enforcement officers from the Mexican side of the border.
Among these was an incident documented by a border security camera of sniper attacks on Border Patrol agents originating from Mexican territory and lasting for 3 days in December 2005. This incident occurred several miles south of Laredo Texas.
Another incident documented in the report occurred on July 12, 2006, in Hidalgo County, Texas, which is located within the Rio Crande Valley of deep South Texas.
On this day sheriff’s deputies and Border Patrol agents were fired upon from Mexico after they tried to rescue two individuals.
This incident occurred south of Donna, Texas. It was reported that hundreds of rounds of automatic fire were directed at U.S. authorities from automatic
weapons in the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
More recent attacks include the murder of a Border Patrol agent in California in 2009who was ambushed by a group of men he was tracking. The men were later arrested in Mexico and the U.S. and the shooter is serving a 40-year sentence.
In an incident that occurred April 2, 2010, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a drug smuggler outside of a residential community along the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas. The smuggler was one several men in a group who were carrying a total of 260 pounds of marijuana in 5 bundles.
After chasing the group through the brush, the Border Patrol agent struggled with one of the smugglers and responded with deadly force as the fight escalated. The drug smuggler was later pronounced dead at the scene after efforts to revive him failed
According to Matthew Hudak, A Border Patrol agent in the Laredo sector, the throwing of rocks, bottles and even chuncks of concrete are a more common occurence than shootings and are a long time problem.
"They haven't just started. They've been going on for a while," said Hudak "It's not an everyday occurrence, luckily."
According to Hudak, the incidents of "rocking" number several dozen a year in the Laredo Sector.
Sources used for this article
The Monitor, Ana Ley; Associated Press, Paul Weber; San Antonio Express News.
Link to N.D.I.C. report: http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs22/22796/border.htm
Link to written testimony, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez/Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition: http://homeland.house.gov/SiteDocuments/20090331101204-32080.pdf