06/07/2011 11:36 PM
SAN JUAN — Police found more than 1,700 rounds of military-grade ammunition, commonly used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, during a Monday evening traffic stop.
Investigators believe the load was headed to Mexico.
San Juan police stopped the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup near the intersection of “I” Road and Business 83 about 7:30 p.m. after an officer noticed the vehicle had a broken tail light, Sgt. Rolando Garcia said.
The driver, later identified in a federal court document as 34-year-old Miguel Angel Avendano-Reyna, drove into the parking lot of an H-E-B near the area before he and his passenger tried to flee on foot, police said. But two officers at the scene, including Garcia, were able to apprehend both of them after a short pursuit.
A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of 16 boxes and a black duffle bag under the truck’s back seat, Garcia said. Each container was filled with at least 100 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition.
The suspects had apparently picked up the load from an undisclosed residence in San Juan, and they had agreed to drop it off to an unidentified person in Hidalgo County for a payment of $250, officials said.
“This is something different for us. We usually get marijuana or other narcotics, but this type of seizure is big, especially with this type of ammunition,” Garcia said. The bullets were attached to a belt used for automatic weapons. “These have had confirmed kills in the military from as far as 3 miles away and it’s very destructive. It’s a very deadly round.”
The bullets are so powerful that they will go through bullet-proof vests and even armored vehicles and tanks, Garcia said.
San Juan police teamed up with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to continue investigating, Garcia said.
Avendano-Reyna and his passenger Jose Resendez-Olivares, 37, both are illegal immigrants who previously were deported a few months ago, according to federal court documents.
Avendano-Reyna, who admitted to authorities he knowingly possessed the rounds, was deported in September, while Resendez-Olivares, who claimed he helped load the boxes but didn’t know what was in them, was removed from the U.S. in November, documents show.
Both suspects made initial appearances in federal court on Monday, where they faced federal charges of illegal entry and illegal alien in possession of ammunition.