On Wednesday, three heavily-armed Mexican police officers from the city of Juarez improperly crossed into the U.S., apparently in pursuit of Mexican cop killers.
The murder suspects had shot and killed a Juarez police officer and wounded another in an ambush near the U.S.-Mexico border. A 16-year old Mexican girl was also shot in the back by a stray bullet but was expected to survive.
According to a Significant Incident Report filed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (see below), the uniformed Mexican officers were spotted about 1:25 p.m. on July 23 crossing the dry Rio Grande River bed into the El Paso, Texas area. The officers, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three Beretta 9mm pistols, were briefly detained and then released. They stated that they had “tunnel vision” as they pursued the murder suspects.
Their prompt release contrasts with the case of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a 26-year old Afghanistan war veteran, who has been held in a Mexican jail since March after he reportedly took a wrong turn and was stopped at the San Ysidro border crossing in Mexico while carrying three registered guns in his pickup truck.
Tahmooressi was in California, prior to his arrest, for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. He served two tours of duty in Afghanistan where he was involved in an IED attack and received a battlefield promotion.
A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington pointed out that Tahmooressi was neither in uniform nor on duty. The Embassy issued a fact sheet stating that,
“In Mexico, as in the United States, ignorance of the law, error, or failure to understand the consequences of violating the law do not exempt individuals from responsibility, regardless of intention.”
Last month, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) revealed Department of Homeland Security statistics showing that Mexican military and law enforcement officials had made 300 known unauthorized border incursions into the U.S. since 2004.
In a statement at the time, Hunter said, “It’s time for the U.S. to reconsider its treatment of the incidents and send a direct message to Mexico that incursions won’t be tolerated along the international border.”
After U.S. officials detained the Mexican officers this week, they joined in the search of the dry Rio Grande for the murder weapon. A review of government surveillance video taken shortly before the police incursion showed someone else on the Mexico side of the border exiting a brown sedan to throw what may have been a weapon into the dry river area that’s heavy with brush. No weapon was found, according to the incident report.
Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for information on the incident.
The Juarez police officer who was killed in the shooting was identified in the local press as 30-year old Victor Eduardo Angel Vargas. The city of Juarez, Mexico, just south of the city of El Paso, has been referred to as “the most dangerous city in the world” due to its rampant drug cartel violence. In an interview with me in 2011, an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent based in Juarez spoke out against the U.S. government’s “gunwalking” operations in Fast and Furious and other cases that he felt might have helped fuel the violence.