Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon, July 24, 2015
A shooting incident last month that forced a U.S. border patrol helicopter to make an emergency landing near Laredo, Texas, was the work of Mexican drug traffickers, and analysts say the attack highlights growing narcotics trafficking across porous U.S. borders.
According to U.S. officials familiar with an investigation of the June 5 incident, members of the Los Zetas drug cartel were crossing back into Mexico from the United States when they were spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) helicopter along the Rio Grande River near Laredo.
The traffickers had finished delivering a shipment of drugs and were returning to Mexico when they were spotted by U.S. agents and opened fired with automatic weapons.
The helicopter, part of USCBP’s Office of Air and Marine, was struck by gunfire on its side and on the rotor blade. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing.
The law enforcement officers on the helicopter spotted the traffickers along the river during a routine flight around 5:00 P.M. local time June 5.
“The pilot was able to make a safe landing; there were no injuries,” said USCBP spokesman Daniel Hetlage, adding that U.S. and Mexican authorities are continuing to investigate. He declined to elaborate.
A month after the U.S. helicopter was forced down by gunfire, Mexican authorities killed six drug runners near Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.
The six suspects had fired on a Mexican Blackhawk helicopter, hitting it several times.
The Mexican helicopter incident July 6 involved an armed convoy of suspected Zetas drug cartel members.