McCraw to drug runners: U.S. officers will fire back, San Antonio Express-News, June 10, 2011
WESLACO – State officials lauded the quick, heavy, multi-agency gunfire response to bullets coming from drug runners on the Rio Grande early Thursday, saying a single shot against a U.S. law enforcement officer is ”one too many.”
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said there would be ”zero tolerance” to attacks against U.S. officers.
”We are going to use overwhelming force. We’re going to use tactics…You shoot a law enforcement officer, you’re going to get return fire,” McCraw said.
Texas Rangers, state game wardens, and U.S. Border Patrol sprayed as many as 300 rounds during the exchange near Mission early Thursday, wounding at least three suspected operatives of the Gulf Cartel.
McCraw, leading a press conference attended by dozens of high-level state and federal law enforcement officials, said there was a possibility one or more of the drug runners was killed.
Mexican military, arriving some three hours after the exchange, seized the inflatable raft with its load of about 400 pounds of marijuana. No arrests were made.
The bad guys fired first, McCraw said, recounting an incident that began at 6:18 a.m., when three Texas Parks and Wildlife boats and one Border Patrol boat approached a red Dodge Durango waiting on U.S. riverbanks.
They then saw the raft full of drugs, he said. As they approached the raft, large, jagged rocks flew from the Mexican side of the river, wounding two game wardens. The rocks were followed by four to six gunshots.
”Make no mistake, from a Texas standpoint it was not just a shooting incident,” he said. ”It was an attempted capital murder of both Texas police officers and Border Patrol agents, and we’re investigating it that way.”
The officers, agents and game wardens did not hold back.
”They encountered force, and we will appropriately respond to that force, and we will go home at the end of the day, and we will protect ourselves, and we will protect our citizens,” TPW Col. Peter Flores said. ”That’s not negotiable.”
The U.S. officials were working a multi-agency Ranger Reconnaissance mission, touted by Gov. Rick Perry as adding state resources to federal ones along the Texas-Mexico border.
McCraw said it was the first time state law enforcement had taken fire on the river, though not Border Patrol, who were shot at as recently as September.
He said the attack showed the increasing brazenness of the cartels, who routinely conduct sophisticated ”splash down” smuggling operations involving retrieval teams, blocking vehicles, road spikes, and safe havens on the Mexican side.
McCraw said there had been at least 44 high-speed chases over the past 18 months, most ending with the drug runners splashing back to safety on the other side.
Interdiction of two similar rafts on Wednesday netted U.S. officials 1,200 pounds of drugs.
”They will not comply, they can’t be arrested, they really scoff at what we do,” McCraw said. ”They’re out manning us.”