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Officers use hundreds of rounds to fight drug runners

20110617-ZeroTolerance-TNWatch the video below

MISSION — When drug runners hauling a small load of marijuana near Chimney Park & RV Resort shot at law enforcement patrolling the river, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said officers responded with heavy fire to show drug cartel workers that Texas doesn’t stand for any attack on law enforcement.

The video shown here is Texas Department of Public Safety aerial footage of the scene following the firefight in Mission on June 9. The recording shows the area after drug runners fled on foot, leaving their drug load behind.

“We have a zero tolerance in the State of Texas,” McCraw said to local media in response to questions whether the heavy fire was excess force.

In the June 9 firefight, U.S. Border Patrol, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, Texas game wardens and Texas Rangers, unleashed 300 rounds of ammo. The drug runners had first thrown rocks before firing approximately four shots at officers before the officers returned fire.

“By DPS standards, one shot is too many,” McCraw said responding to questions whether the incident was given too much hype. “Shoot at law enforcement and you’re going to get returned fire.”

 The drug smugglers were carrying a load of 400 pounds of marijuana via a water raft. In video provided by DPS officials, the load was shown abandoned on the Mexican banks of the river.

The incident occurred before 6:30 a.m. Shortly before, agents saw a red Dodge Durango with Tamaulipas, Mexico license plates near the river. The truck had reportedly been stolen before the sighting. Minutes after spotting the truck, agents saw a group unloading the bundles of marijuana headed back across to the Mexican side of the river.

Three Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden boats came in contact with the group as the smugglers threw rocks and shot at the officials, McCraw explained.

 While none of the local law enforcement were seriously injured outside of cuts and bruises from the rocks, McCraw said some of the drug runners might have been injured in the firefight. He expected there to be at least one fatality among them.

Mexican officials destroyed the water raft, but as of June 10, no arrests had been made.

“Make no mistake, from a Texas standpoint, this is not just a shooting incident,” McCraw said. “In fact, what this really is about is an attempted capital murder on Texas police officers and Border Patrol agents, and we’re investigating it that way.”

Texas Parks and Wildlife Col. Pete Flores said all agencies worked together in last week’s incident to protect one another from possible fatal fire.

“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,” Flores said. “That’s non-negotiable.”

On June 10 at the Weslaco DPS office, local law enforcement gathered to answer questions from media about the ongoing investigation. There, McCraw said officials believe the smugglers were from one of the two top drug cartels, the Gulf Cartel or the Zetas cartel.

While officials are mindful of a possible retaliation, McCraw said state officers were prepared to use “overwhelming force” in the sky and on the ground to combat any threat.

“They out-equip us and out-fund us,” McCraw said of drug cartels that operate without budget constraints. “They’re very good at counter-surveillance; they are smart. They’re out manning us. Are they outsmarting us? I don’t believe that’s the case.”

The Border Patrol, who McCraw called the SWAT team for the border, needs better adequate funding to man the border.

“The Border Patrol does not have the resources they need,” McCraw said.

One officer involved in last week’s operation retired last week from DPS after 18 years of service on June 10. An El Paso native, Capt. Robert Bullack said he traveled across the border as a boy for haircuts, an activity he wishes he could experience with his grandchildren.

“I’ve seen the worst of it,” Bullack said of border violence.

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