US Marijuana Party

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pot-laden truck creates armed standoff

Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

A marijuana-laden dump truck got stuck in the Rio Grande on Thursday evening in Hudspeth County, leading to a standoff between U.S. law enforcement and what appeared to be the Mexican military, sheriff officials said.

"It's a very serious incident," Hudspeth County Chief Deputy Mike Doyal said.

"We are very fortunate (Thursday) night no one got hurt," Doyal said. "Everyone had the presence of mind not to cause an international incident, or start shooting."

The incident began when Border Patrol agents tried to stop the dump truck on Interstate 10, sheriff's officials said. The truck fled to Mexico in the Neely's Crossing area.

The truck got stuck in the riverbed, and the driver took off running. Agents "started to retrieve the bundles (of marijuana) when the armed subjects appeared," said Agent Ramiro Cordero, a Border Patrol spokesman.

The Border Patrol called Hudspeth County sheriff's deputies and Texas state troopers for backup, both agencies confirmed.

Doyal said the truck driver returned with the armed men, including men who arrived in official-looking vehicles with overhead lights and what appeared to be Mexican soldiers in uniform and with military-style rifles.

The Mexican army is used in anti-narcotics operations. Army officials could not be reached for comment.

The standoff ended when the "soldiers" used a bulldozer to pull the dump truck into Mexico, sheriff's officials said.

Doyal said the bulldozer is kept in the area and is suspected of being used to create makeshift paths across the river.

"The 1,850 pounds confiscated (by U.S. authorities) was probably a third of what was in the truck. The rest went into the Mexican side," Doyal said.

Cordero, the Border Patrol spokesman, described the incident as an "armed encounter with drug smugglers" but would not confirm whether the Mexican military was involved. Investigations into the incident continue.


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