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American agent, suspected of smuggling, killed off the coast of Puerto Rico

American agent, suspected of smuggling, killed off the coast of Puerto Rico

American agent, suspected of smuggling, killed off the coast of Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON (AP) – A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and suspected smuggler was killed in a shootout Thursday off the coast of Puerto Rico, authorities said. Other American officers were injured.

CBP’s Air and Maritime Operations Unit was on routine patrol when shots were fired about 19 miles (19 kilometers) offshore from Cabo Rojo, a major drug-trafficking corridor for cocaine coming from South America, known as the Mona Passage. It is located between the west coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

One of the two suspected smugglers has died, CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones said.

The FBI is investigating the shooting, which happened around 8 a.m. local time. Quiñones told reporters in Puerto Rico. He said it was too early to know where the ship came from, the nationalities of its two passengers and whether it was carrying narcotics or servicing another vessel suspected of carrying drugs in the Caribbean.

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

CBP said in a statement that three agents were injured and were airlifted to a trauma center in Puerto Rico. That first statement did not indicate that anyone had been killed.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in testimony before a Senate committee that one Air and Naval Operations agent was killed and several other agents were “severely wounded.”

“These are brave members of our Air and Marine operations within US Customs and Border Protection,” Mayorkas said. “So the difficulty of this job cannot be compared to the difficulty that our frontline members face every day. Their bravery and selfless service should be acknowledged.”

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. Air and Maine aircraft and sea assets to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and other goods.

The unit detected 218 “intrusions by conventional aircraft” on US soil in fiscal year 2021, seized 1.1 million pounds of narcotics, $73.1 million in illicit currency, made more than 122,000 arrests and rescued 518 people, according to CBP.

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Goodman called from Miami.

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This version corrects the location of the shooting to be 12 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, not 144 miles.



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