“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and a suspected smuggler died during a shootout Thursday off the Puerto Rico coast, authorities said. Two other U.S. officers were injured.
CBP’s Air and Marine Operations unit was on routine patrol around 8 a.m. Thursday when the shots were fired about 12 miles (19 kilometers) off the coast from Cabo Rojo, a major drug smuggling corridor for cocaine coming out of South America known as the Mona Passage, the agency said. It lies between Puerto Rico’s western coastline and the Dominican Republic. “As soon as they approached that vessel, those two individuals started to shoot and the agents shot back,” spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones said.

Three CBP Marine Interdiction Agents exchanged gunfire with two people who were aboard the suspected smuggling ship, officials said. All three agents were shot and airlifted to local hospitals in Puerto Rico. Federal agents waited for news of their injured colleagues outside the Rio Piedras Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and a suspected smuggler died during a shootout Thursday off the Puerto Rican coast, authorities said.

The agent’s identity was not immediately released and the condition of the other two agents was not immediately clear. One of the people aboard the suspected smuggling ship was also killed, officials said. The second person on that vessel was arrested. After the shooting, another U.S. marine interdiction crew intercepted another boat nearby, finding firearms and other contraband onboard, Customs and Border Protection said. The two people on that ship were also arrested.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in testimony before a Senate committee that an Air and Marine Operations agent was killed and several other agents were “gravely wounded.” “These are brave members of our Air and Marine Operations within U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” Mayorkas said. “So the difficulty of this job cannot be compared to the difficulty that our frontline personnel faces every day. Their bravery and selfless service should be recognized.”

Today, we mourn a Marine Interdiction Agent who died after a gunfire exchange with suspected smugglers in the Caribbean, & we hope for healing of 2 agents who suffered injuries. We are indebted to them. Our hearts are with the families of our brave agents.


Our hearts are heavy today due to the death & injury of Marine Interdiction Agents following an exchange of gunfire w/ suspected smugglers off the Puerto Rican coast. We’re working with partners to ensure those responsible are brought to justice & will share info as we are able.

FBI Leads Shooting Investigation

Speaking to reporters in Puerto Rico, CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones said it was too early to know where the vessel originated from, the nationality of its two passengers and whether it was carrying narcotics or servicing another suspected drug vessel in the Caribbean.

Typically, drug cartels recruit poor fishermen from Colombia and Venezuela to transport large amounts of cocaine northward to the Dominican Republic where it is broken down into smaller bales and transferred at sea to waiting vessels manned by better-paid, sometimes well-armed Puerto Rican drug runners.

Air and Marine Operations employs about 1,650 people and is one of the smaller units of CBP, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States that also includes the Border Patrol. It works to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs, and other goods. The unit detected 218 “conventional aircraft incursions” on U.S. soil in the 2021 fiscal year, seized 1.1 million pounds of narcotics, and $73.1 million in illicit currency, made more than 122,000 arrests and rescued 518 people, according to CBP.

The shooting came a day after Border Patrol agents seized nearly 200 pounds of cocaine, valued at about $2 million, from a makeshift vessel that had capsized near a beach in northwest Puerto Rico, the agency said. Agents also found a firearm and the body of a man, which was taken to a medical examiner’s office, according to Customs and Border Protection.

Nearby, US Border Patrol Seizes 198 Pounds of Cocaine during a maritime smuggling event in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents seized 198 pounds (90 kilos) of cocaine Wednesday morning abandoned next to a makeshift “yola” vessel and the body of a man in the area of Guajataca beach in Quebradillas. The estimated value of the contraband is $ 2 million.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2022, agents detected a vessel traveling without navigation lights approximately one nautical mile northwest of Quebradillas. When the Border Patrol agents reached the location, they found the yola vessel capsized and discovered the presence of narcotics scattered on site. Agents also discovered a deceased male subject trapped under the vessel. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) were notified. PRPD responded and took lead in the investigation of the deceased subject.

BPAs seized three bundles and four bricks which field tested positive for the properties of cocaine. The smuggling vessel identified as a 23-ft makeshift vessel with two outboard engines (OBEs) was recovered and transported to Ramey Station. A firearm found in the smuggling vessel was turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The deceased subject was taken by the Puerto Rico Forensics Institute.

The Ramey Sector is one of the twenty-one Sectors spread out across the United States. Encompassing the U.S. territorial islands of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it is the only Border Patrol Sector located outside the continental United States. The Sector’s entire border area is made up of coastline and its area of responsibility is made up of some 6,000 square miles of land and water area, including the twelve-mile band of territorial water surrounding the Islands.

Sources AP News, New York Times, CBP, CBPAMO