LOS EBANOS — Five men from Mexico face federal drug charges after U.S. Border Patrol agents were fired upon from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
The shooting took place Friday evening along the river near Los Ebanos after agents saw a dark Ford Expedition that approached the river and then was loaded with bundles of marijuana by several men who had used rafts to move the bundles from Mexico to the U.S. side, court records show.
The agents requested backup and moved in to intercept the vehicle as it was leaving the river, heading northbound. Upon spotting the agents, the vehicle turned around and headed back to the river, where the driver ditched the Expedition.
According to a written statement from Border Patrol, the driver of the vehicle waded toward a raft in an effort to get across to the Diaz Ordaz side of the river. When the agents chased him on foot, they came under fire from a gunman on the Mexican side of the river, who had perched himself in a tree. After taking fire, the agents fired their weapons back at the gunman.
It remains unclear how many rounds were fired at the agents or how many were fired back, but the agents were not hurt in the firefight, court records show.
Once the shooting ended, the agents searched the area, finding 63 bundles of marijuana — with a total weight of 1,017 pounds — and five smugglers.
On Monday morning, the five alleged smugglers were taken before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby, who ordered they be held without bond pending a detention hearing Wednesday morning. The men were charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance–marijuana.
The men were identified as Jose Maria Garza Lara, Arturo Hernandez Ruiz, Eduardo Camarillo Valdez, Sergio Emanuel Camarillo Valdez and Andres Gonzalez Jordan. Each of the men told investigators that they were part of the group that had been smuggling the drugs.
Garza Lara told investigators that he was the driver of the vehicle and was to be paid $600 for driving the load to an undisclosed location.
The shooting is under investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI.
Ildefonso Ortiz covers courts, law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4437.
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