Border Patrol: Pot Shot Over Fence With Cannon

Agents say smugglers have come up with yet another creative way to get drugs in the country.

An attempt by drug smugglers to propel cans of marijuana into the United States with a pneumatic cannon was thwarted by Border Patrol agents over the weekend.

The incident happened some time after sunset Friday in a field near County 22nd and the Colorado River, just northwest of San Luis, Ariz.

The drug smugglers crossed the Colorado River with the pneumatic cannon and entered an area of U.S. territory outside of the border fence. They then used a carbon dioxide canister to propel the pot over the salinity canal and the border fence into a field abut 500 feet away. The marijuana was tucked inside what appeared to be soup cans inside of larger cans and sealed on the ends.

"By actually shooting it over the fence, they don't have to worry about mules or smugglers actually backpacking it across," said Kyle Estes, Yuma Sector Border Patrol public affairs officer, adding someone was most likely waiting to pick up the marijuana on the U.S. side.

Before smugglers could collect the drugs, a concerned citizen discovered the cans in the field and contacted the Border Patrol. Agents responded to the area and conducted an extensive search. Mexican authorities were also contacted to search their side of the border.

Although no arrests were made, and the smugglers escaped with the cannon, agents were able to seize a tank of carbon dioxide outside the border fence, along with 33 cans of marijuana. The cans contained about 85 pounds of pot worth an estimated $42,500. The pot is scheduled for destruction.

Similar smuggling methods using a pneumatic cannon have been used before in California, but "in this area I think this is new," Estes said, noting smugglers are resulting to such non-traditional methods as a result of heightened border security in the Yuma Sector.

"We continue 24/7 watching all the areas along the border. We are in contact with the Mexican authorities on the south side and will continue to coordinate with them."

During the past year, international smugglers have brought contraband into the Yuma area using underground tunnels, ultralight aircraft and makeshift ramps.

In July, federal agents and Yuma County sheriff's deputies discovered a clandestine smuggling tunnel between a business in San Luis, Ariz., and a business in Mexico. The 755-foot tunnel was 60 feet beneath the ground and had been in operation for about six months to smuggle drugs into America and weapons and cash back to Mexico.

In August, agents responded to an ultralight aircraft incursion from Mexico near Somerton and recovered nine bundles that had been dropped to the ground. The bundles contained about 208 pounds of marijuana.

In October, two men attempted to drive an sport utility vehicle over the border fence 20 miles west of Yuma by using a makeshift ramp. The SUV became high-centered on the fence, and the men had to flee back into Mexico when Border Patrol agents arrived on scene.

Copyright 2012 - The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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