Archive for the ‘The Fallen’ Category

Katie Pavlich | Jun 07, 2013

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and President Obama failed to say anything about it. There is no released statement on WhiteHouse.govand nothing on the White House or Barack Obama twitter feeds about the anniversary. President Obama did not make any public remarks about the anniversary yesterday, either.

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2013/06/07/obama-fails-to-commemorate-dday-n1615206

Hunting in Arivaca is a tradition for the Ybarra family. Bill Ybarra grew up in the Rio Rico area and was out hunting with his son and brother-in-law last weekend.

“I remember coming on horseback in the day,” Bill said. “It’s a tradition.”

Living Southern Arizona their entire lives, they’ve been coming to these parts for decades. The familiarity keeps them coming back. “We’re local. Been hunting it for 20 years.”

Gregg Rath and his friend, Mike Shirey are from Phoenix and like the terrain Arivaca has to offer.

“We keep coming back because we love it,” Rath said. “We stop in Arivaca to eat or stop at the Longhorn or other place. It’s a nice break.”

But they’re in the minority. Fewer and fewer hunters are coming to border areas because of illegal immigrants and smugglers. Arizona’s game and fish has seen the drop off.

“Our hunting license and game tag sales in the borderland areas have been down for the last 15 years,” Mark Hart, the public information officer of the Game and Fish Department in Tucson, said.

The biggest change in the last 15 years is the security along the border. Hart attributes it to the Clinton administration’s focus on San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas forced immigrants and smugglers to funnel their way through Arizona..

“For many years now we have had left over game tags specifically for deer and javelin — specifically in the borderland areas,” Hart added. “Probably the place that has had the most left over is from Arivaca South to Sasabe.”

With all the illegal activity on the border, hunters are chasing game elsewhere. Making it tough for establishments down South who are starving for business.

Lyndel Caswell has been the manager of Cow Palace restaurant and bar for the last five years. She’s noticed a drop off in business. “Yes we’ve seen a decline even from last year,” she said. “There’s been a decline in hunters. They used to come in for lunch and dinner or go to the bar but not so much.”

Scott Skober manages the bar at Cow Palace for the last three years. “Business has been down,” he agreed. “But I don’t know if it’s because of the illegal activity or not.”

Last summer, The Longhorn Grill went out of business. It’s likely the result of the recession but fewer hunters didn’t help either.

The BK Outlaw Barbecue is across the street and has several signs outside inviting hunters inside. Co-owner Vickie Wandfluh gives hunters a free sandwich if they get a deer. “We cater to them,” she said. “We offer camp fire meals they can take with them… but, business has definitely been down.”

“Some hunters are concerned about the activity on the border. But the one that have been hunting here for years are not concerned.”

You are sure to see border patrol agents stop by BK Outlaw Barbecue, but their increased presence can sometimes scare away even the locals.

Wandfluh recalls a time the Border Patrol loaded up body bags in her parking lot. “When a Black Hawk helicopter lands at your restaurant and doesn’t let anyone out of the building or off the freeway exit, it scares people. New visitors don’t want to come back. It’s bad for business.”

The hunters that are still coming admit they have to make allowances for the beefed up border presence. “We know they’re just doing their jobs and we notice the migrant traffic is down because of it,” Gregg Rath said.

Mike Cotton lives in the Three Points area and doesn’t even try to hunt the area anymore. Instead, he gets his shooting in on the range. “It’s not as safe as people say,” Cotton said. “It’s pretty bad out there.”

Game and Fish is aware of hunters’ reluctance to frequent the borderlands, but say those areas can still offer a positive experience.

“We believe you can still recreate safely there you just have to be safe about it,” Hart said. He suggests taking the following precautions:

– Let others know where you’re going and when you’re returning.

-Carry a GPS unit and know how to use it.

-Avoid suspicious areas where there’s lots of garbage.

-Avoid abandoned cars and back into spots.

-Be reluctant to render aid to someone who appears injured.

-Contact Border Patrol if you see suspicious activity at 1-800-BE-ALERT.

Bill Ybarra knows things have changed. But, that doesn’t mean he has to. “This is my hunting ground, no one’s going to push me out.”

by Scott Kilbury at tucsonnewsnow.com

ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Ariz. — On a hot desert morning last week, a group of 20 tourists gathered in the visitor center in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to attend a mandatory safety briefing before taking a guarded van tour to Quitobaquito springs. The springs is part of the 69 percent of the remote border park west of Tucson that has been closed to the public since Kris Eggle, a 28-year-old law enforcement park ranger, was shot and killed while pursuing drug runners armed with AK-47s in 2002.

Organ Pipe was named “the most dangerous national park” that year and also in 2003 by the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, before the group discontinued the series. The drastic increase of drug activity on Arizona’s southern border since the 1990s has turned Organ Pipe rangers into de factor Border Patrol agents, and spurred state lawmakers to pass several laws cracking down on illegal immigrants within the state.

Since 2009, the park has offered van tours to the springs, as long as rangers armed with assault rifles go along to protect the visitors. Now, ten years after Eggle’s murder, the park’s leadership has decided to open up a portion of the closed areas to the public in March, citing improved safety conditions and a big increase in Border Patrol agents in the area.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in Arizona, immigration has once again been a hotly contested topic in the state: Mitt Romney in a debate last week praised Arizona’s immigration laws as a “model” for the country, while President Obama’s Justice Department is suing Arizona to overturn one of those laws, called SB1070. The law–which has not gone into effect because of a federal court order–requires police to check a person’s immigration status during stops if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to fail to carry immigration papers or for illegal immigrants to solicit work. Drug violence has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in 2006, but spillover violence has so far been minimal in the United States. Still, Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, falsely claimed that beheadings occurred in the Arizona desert in 2010, the same year she signed SB1070 into law. Arizona was also the first state to pass a mandatory E-Verify law in 2007, to ensure employers don’t hire illegal immigrants.

Brewer says the law will help police officers combat drug trafficking and crime, but critics say it will encourage racial profiling and interferes with federal control over immigration. Yahoo News went to Organ Pipe last week to witness the challenges of the border as the presidential candidates debate how best to control it.

‘They’ll have M14s at hand. Don’t be worried.’

“There is a chance we might have to cancel the tour if there’s some sort of apprehension in progress,” Park Ranger Karl Sommerhauser, wearing a bulky dark green bulletproof vest, told the tourists last week. Sommerhauser had an ear piece curling out of his left ear. “We expect you to take direction from Ken,” he said sternly.

Ken Hires, an unflaggingly cheerful park ranger dressed in reassuringly normal-looking tan ranger clothes, bounded to the front of the room. Hires is what’s called an interpretive ranger, which means he has no law enforcement duties and does not carry a weapon. (“I spent my five years in Vietnam. Enough shooting,” he said later.) Hires explained that some law enforcement officers would be hiding in the hills and closely watching the two-hour nature hike, while another pair of armed rangers would follow the tourists closely from the ground. “They’ll have M14s at hand,” he told the group. “Don’t be worried.”

“You might see something interesting off the trail, but please don’t go wandering off,” Hires continued, explaining that it made it difficult for the rangers to track people from the hills. “Please be respectful that those people are putting themselves on the line for us.”

As the group loaded into the vans, one woman from Idaho whispered to her husband: “Does it make you worried? They get chest protections, and we don’t get none of them.”

Hires, sitting in the passenger side of the van, began talking quickly into his radio to the rangers. He turned to the back and explained: “We operate this as if it were an incident.”

“You say there was an incident out there?” a walrus-mustachioed passenger wearing a cowboy hat asked warily.

“We’re it,” Ken said, to nervous laughter.

‘There’s nothing normal about Organ Pipe’

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 330,000-acre, surprisingly green stretch of Sonoran desert populated by barrel, saguaro and organ pipe cacti, spans 30 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The park became a corridor for drug runners in the 1990s after border security tightened at major ports of entry and in urban areas, driving human and drug traffickers to rural crossings. Alan Bersin, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner until last year, admitted that the Tucson sector of the border was “out of control” until recently. In 2010, half of all border apprehensions and drug seizures occurred in the Tucson sector, which encompasses much of Organ Pipe.

Drug runners would cut across Mexican Highway 2 through Organ Pipe’s dirt roads in a car and then quickly hop onto U.S. Highway 85, which shoots up to Phoenix or Tucson. The vehicles blazed more than 200 miles of unauthorized roads through the park, and rangers found themselves in dangerous, high-speed chases nearly every day. An $18 million, 23-mile vehicle fence put up after Eggle’s murder by the Department of the Interior cut down on this vehicle traffic. Now, cartels have had to get smarter, sometimes cutting into the fence, removing it, driving through, and then putting it back together again. Drug runners also started coming more on foot, dropping their packages in designated spots on the highway for someone else to pick up.

The Department of Homeland Security recently put up nine surveillance towers in the park, making it easier for agents to detect this new foot traffic, so the drug runners are now hiding in the hills, where the towers can’t see them. (A Border Patrol helicopter operation last year in these hills netted 800 pounds of trash and a whole “herd” of people, according to Hires.) Border Patrol set up a check point on Highway 85 within the park in the past year, which has pushed drug traffickers to the neighboring Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Tohono O’odham reservation, adding as much as four days to their on-foot journeys. “They’re very adaptive, more so than us,” said Organ Pipe park superintendent Lee Baiza wearily, during an interview with Yahoo News last week.

Baiza said he spends about 80 percent of his time working with Homeland Security and handling border concerns. “There’s nothing normal about Organ Pipe,” he added.

The superintendent, who took over in 2007, has faced criticism for preventing Border Patrol agents from building new roads in the wilderness areas of the park, which is part of a larger struggle between Homeland Security and national park and land agencies that operate on the border. (More than 85 percent of border property in Arizona is federally owned.) Bob Bishop, a Republican representative from Utah, introduced a bill last year that would waive environmental laws up to 100 miles north of the border, freeing up Homeland Security to build roads through the wilderness to combat illegal immigration and drug running. Bishop criticized the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for preventing Border Patrol agents from driving off-road in the Quitobaquito area of the park because of a pond nearby that contains the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish.

“I may care about the pupfish, but I also care about kids getting hooked on illegal drugs that are coming over that border,” Bishop told Yahoo News. Drug runners cause more environmental damage to the border by leaving trash, he said, than Border Patrol agents would by building roads.

“Every congressman seems to have his own idea of what we’re doing wrong,” Baiza said. “The reality is all of that has improved immensely since 2007.”

Apprehensions in the park were down last month for the first time in three years, Baiza said. Border Patrol would not release park-specific data, but a spokesman, Jason Rheinfrank, said that the Tucson sector overall saw a 40 percent drop in apprehensions last fiscal year, while the number of agents has nearly tripled since 2000. Illegal crossing arrests over the entire border were at a four-decade low last fiscal year, in part because of the flagging American economy.

On March 1, 46 percent of the park–instead of 31 percent–is scheduled to be open to the public. Baiza cited the increased fencing, number of Border Patrol agents, and technology in the park as the reasons for the change.

Organ pipe cactus. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo)

‘What we are trying to do is retake this landscape’

“The real problem we have with safety is drug dealing, not the people looking for work,” Hires said from a loudspeaker system at the front of the van. Three different border patrol agents riding ATVs raced by, waving. “What we are trying to do is retake this landscape so we can all be free to be out here,” he added.

Twenty minutes later, the vans arrived at Quitobaquito, where two young men toting heavy M14 rifles were already waiting. The rangers arrived at the springs two hours earlier to scour the area and make sure no one was hiding.

“Please be respectful and don’t photograph them,” Hires warned. The park service is worried that cartel members would retaliate against the rangers if their faces were publicized. Baiza says Organ Pipe never sends out press releases announcing new ranger hires for the same reason.

The armed park rangers didn’t greet the group and stayed about 20 paces ahead on the trail. Hires showed the tourists the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish in the pond (the endangered Sonoran mud turtles were nowhere to be found), and answered questions about the names of different plants and flowers. He explained that the springs has been a crossroads for thousands of years, an oasis drawing thirsty desert-dwellers and entrepreneurial shell traders. The tour ended, and two volunteer rangers stood guard as visitors used the restroom in the bushes before the long van ride back.

“You got to show me your visa,” one volunteer ranger joked as people began loading back into the van.

On the way out, Hires pointed out the two park rangers at the top of the hill, green specks on the horizon.

Another border patrol ATV zoomed past the van and stopped the law enforcement park rangers who were escorting the group back to the visitor center.  Two brown packages were tied to the back of the ATV.

“See those bundles? Want to guess?” Hires asked. “Marijuana.” In 2005, the last year the park released border incident data, Organ Pipe park rangers seized 17,000 pounds of marijuana.

The rangers let out a dog from the back of the SUV, as the visitors craned their necks to watch from the van. The dog jumped out and ran to the bundles. He sat down abruptly and pointed his nose at the packages, then looked back at his masters. “That’s the sign,” Hires said. The rangers tossed the jubilant dog a toy, and the Border Patrol agent drove off again in the ATV.

“There’s been a sighting of a UDA,” Hires said a few minutes later, listening to his radio. (UDA means undocumented alien.) “He’s sitting next to a trashcan which means he’s waiting for us to pick him up and give him a ride home. He’s given up.”

‘I feel safer here than in Fresno’

Despite all the excitement on the trip, Hires said he thinks the park is very safe because of the law enforcement rangers and the Border Patrol agents.

“I feel safer here than in Fresno,” Hires said after the tour. (He works seasonally in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks near Fresno, California.)

But visitors–or rather, the people who are choosing not to be visitors–still have concerns. In 2010, visits to the park plunged to a 10-year low of 209,600. Baiza says that when state politicians focus on the dangers of Mexico and the border, fewer people visit the park.

“They come here all petrified,” Bonnie Auman, a park volunteer, said. “Then they see all the law enforcement, the Border Patrol.”

Bishop, the Utah congressman, said that while the stagnant economy may have significantly deterred unauthorized migrants who are looking for work, he doesn’t think it has made a dent in the number of drug runners targeting Arizona. “That’s why we need to control the border,” he told Yahoo News. “They’re not going to be affected by E-Verify and the economy, and the Border Patrol needs to have the ability to battle that.”

It remains to be seen whether visitors will be lured back. Hires journeyed to the Quartzsite, Ariz., RV Show last month to recruit wary RVers to visit the park. “The No. 1 question: ‘Is it safe there?'” he said. “And the second one was, ‘Are you open?’ People thought we totally closed the place.”

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/fighting-drugs-border-violence-arizona-organ-pipe-cactus-132342614.html

TRAIN CRASHED INTO UNMARKED SUV

Agents who died were chasing suspected illegal immigrants

5-12-11

GILA BEND, AZ (KOLD) – The two agents who were found dead Thursday morning after a train had slammed into them were helping other agents in pursuit of suspected illegal immigrants, a Maricopa County detective said.

 In a press conference held at a media staging area near the crash, detective Aaron Douglas said he would not confirm or deny if the agents were alive or dead at the time of the crash.

 He also would not comment on what, if anything, was found in the surrounding area, citing the ongoing investigation — which is being conducted by several agencies. The lead agency, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, will coordinate now with the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

 Douglas did say during the conference that the agents were not airlifted after being found and were pronounced dead at the scene.

 An official with the border patrol went into more detail about the facts leading up to the crash.

 The two agents who died were helping other agents on the ground who were pursuing “illegal aliens,” spokesman Kenneth Quillin said. They were assigned to the Yuma sector.

 Driving in an unmarked, black SUV, the two agents were positioning themselves north of where the pursuit was taking place, Quillin said.

 The practice of driving in such a vehicle is one agents engage in “from time to time,” he added. The agents crossed the tracks in a marked and legal crossing.

 Both the engineer and conductor of the train have been interviewed by investigators.

 “This is a huge loss for the border patrol family,” Quillin said.

 Additional press conferences are scheduled later Thursday. Stay with KOLD News 13 on all three of your screens for the latest.

 Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

AP  12-25-10

MEXICO CITY – Joseph Proctor told his girlfriend he was popping out to the convenience store in the quiet Mexican beach town where the couple had just moved, intending to start a new life.

The next morning, the 32-year-old New York native was dead inside his crashed van on a road outside Acapulco. He had multiple bullet wounds. An AR-15 rifle lay in his hands.

His distraught girlfriend, Liliana Gil Vargas, was summoned to police headquarters, where she was told Proctor had died in a gunbattle with an army patrol. They claimed Proctor — whose green van had a for-sale sign and his cell phone number spray-painted on the windows — had attacked the troops. They showed her the gun.

His mother, Donna Proctor, devastated and incredulous, has been fighting through Mexico’s secretive military justice system ever since to learn what really happened on the night of Aug. 22.

It took weeks of pressuring U.S. diplomats and congressmen for help, but she finally got an answer, which she shared with The Associated Press.

Three soldiers have been charged with killing her son. Two have been charged with planting the assault rifle in his hands and claiming falsely that he fired first, according to a Mexican Defense Department document sent to her through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

It is at least the third case this year in which soldiers, locked in a brutal battle with drug cartels, have been accused of killing innocent civilians and faking evidence in cover-ups.

Such scandals are driving calls for civilian investigators to take over cases that are almost exclusively handled by military prosecutors and judges who rarely convict one of their own.

“I hate the fact that he died alone and in pain an in such an unjust way,” Donna Proctor, a Queens court bailiff, said in a telephone interview with the AP. “I want him to be remembered as a hardworking person. He would never pick up a gun and shoot someone.”

President Felipe Calderon has proposed a bill that would require civilian investigations in all torture, disappearance and rape cases against the military. But other abuses, including homicides committed by on-duty soldiers, would mostly remain under military jurisdiction. That would include the Proctor case and two others this year in which soldiers were accused of even more elaborate cover-ups.

The first involved two university students killed in March during a gunbattle between soldiers and cartel suspects that spilled into their campus in the northern city of Monterrey. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said soldiers destroyed surveillance cameras, planted guns on the two young men and took away their backpacks in an attempt to claim they were gang members. The military admitted the two were students after university officials spoke out.

In that case, military and civilian federal prosecutors are conducting a joint investigation into the killings. The military, however, is in charge of the investigation into the allegation of crime-scene tampering.

In the second case, two brothers aged 5 and 9 were killed in April in their family’s car in the northern state of Tamaulipas. The rights commission said in a report that there was no gunbattle and that soldiers fired additional rounds into the family car and planted two vehicles at the scene to make it look like a crossfire incident. The Defense Department stands by its explanation and denies there was a cover-up.

The rights commission, an autonomous government institution, has received more than 4,000 abuse complaints, including torture, rape, killings and forced disappearances, since Calderon deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in December 2006 to destroy drug cartels in their strongholds.

The commission has recommended action in 69 of those cases, and the Defense Department says it is investigating 67.

So far military courts have passed down only one conviction for an abuse committed since Calderon intensified the drug war four years ago: an officer who forced a new subordinate in his unit to drink so much alcohol in a hazing ritual that he died. He was sentenced to four months in prison.

Another officer was convicted, then cleared on appeal, in the Aug. 3, 2007 death of Fausto Murillo Flores. Soldiers arrested Murillo and two other men in the northern state of Sonora, accusing them of arms possession. However, they only presented the two other men to the media and did not immediately acknowledge ever having had Murillo in custody.

Murillo’s body was later found by the side of a road and the military acknowledged having detained him.

The Defense Department has not explained why the officer was acquitted.

The military justice system operates in near total secrecy, choosing what to publicly reveal and when.

While privately informing Proctor’s family about his case, Defense Department officials have publicly refused to discuss it at all. The day after his death, Guerrero state prosecutors announced to reporters that Proctor was killed after attacking a military convoy.

His mother, angry that she kept reading news reports with that version of the events, has asked Defense Department officials to reveal publicly that soldiers were charged with planting the gun on her son. The department replied, in writing, that it would only do so after the soldiers had been sentenced.

Defense Department spokesman Col. Ricardo Trevilla told the AP to file a freedom of information petition. IT DID but was rebuffed with the explanation that information on the ongoing investigation was “classified as reserved for a period of 12 years.”

Proctor’s family, meanwhile, still doesn’t understand why he was killed.

Donna Proctor said her son hated guns so much that he rejected her suggestion that he follow in her footsteps and become a court bailiff, a job that requires carrying a sidearm.

Instead, he become a construction worker and eventually started his own business in Atlanta, Georgia. Last year, he moved to Mexico’s central state of Puebla with his Mexican-born wife and their young son, Giuseppe. The marriage foundered and his wife returned to Georgia.

Proctor stayed behind with his son and eventually met and fell in love with Liliana Gil Vargas, a waitress and mother of four. After a vacation in Barra de Coyuca, the beach town outside of Acapulco, the couple decided to move there. Proctor was saving up top to open a restaurant.

According to the document sent to his mother, the soldiers tried to stop Proctor and inspect his vehicle. They claim he fled, prompting one of the soldiers to shoot at him, hitting his car. The soldiers chased down the car and fired again, “wounding the driver who nonetheless continued to drive away, fleeing, crashing the car three kilometers down that road,” the document said.

A superior officer in the patrol told the battalion commander what happened. The battalion commander sent another officer to the scene with the AR-15 rifle “in order to be placed in the vehicle, using the hands of the deceased to try to simulate an attack against military personnel,” the document says.

For the family, there are many unanswered questions. Did Proctor really flee? Why would he have refused to stop?

Donna Proctor said he complained about being shaken down by Mexican police and soldiers but also spoke of being friendly with soldiers on the base near the home he was building in Barra de Coyuca.

“He was 32. He loved life. He loved his son and he wanted to work hard to give him something,” she said.

Donna Proctor said Mexican Defense Department officials visited her recently in Long Island and compensated her for the cost of flying her son back to the U.S. and the funeral. She said she told them she wanted justice — and for the world to know what really happened.

“I told them I had no intention of this being the end of it,” she said.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101225/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_mexico_uncovering_cover_ups

Napolitano confirms gang killed agent

 by Daniel González and Dan Nowicki – Dec. 18, 2010 12:00 AM  The Arizona Republic  

An elite Border Patrol squad was pursuing a gang that preyed on drug smugglers when Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed Tuesday night in a remote canyon near Rio Rico, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday. 
 

 

“They were seeking to apprehend what’s called a ‘rip crew,’ which is a name given to a crew that is organized to seek to rip off people who are drug mules or traversing the border illegally,” she said during a meeting with The Arizona Republic’s editorial board. “That’s why they were in that area.”

Her comments were the first official confirmation that Terry and other members of the Border Patrol’s specially trained tactical unit known as BORTAC were pursuing bandits the night the 40-year-old agent was killed in a gunbattle.

An elite Border Patrol squad was pursuing a gang that preyed on drug smugglers when Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed Tuesday night in a remote canyon near Rio Rico, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday.

“They were seeking to apprehend what’s called a ‘rip crew,’ which is a name given to a crew that is organized to seek to rip off people who are drug mules or traversing the border illegally,” she said during a meeting with The Arizona Republic’s editorial board. “That’s why they were in that area.”

Her comments were the first official confirmation that Terry and other members of the Border Patrol’s specially trained tactical unit known as BORTAC were pursuing bandits the night the 40-year-old agent was killed in a gunbattle.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/12/18/20101218napolitano-border-agent-killed.html#ixzz18a6uPJHd