Coast Guard marksman shoots out engines of fleeing panga, 7,100 pounds of marijuana, 3 suspected smugglers detained

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard News
SAN DIEGO – U.S. Coast Guard crews intercepted a panga boat with approximately 7,100 pounds of marijuana and three suspected smugglers aboard in international waters some 155 miles southwest of San Diego, Tuesday morning.

It was the second time this month that Coast Guard and partner agencies have thwarted a major marijuana smuggling operation in the area.

In the most recent incident an aircrew aboard a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft initially detected the 30-foot panga and multiple assets, including the Coast Guard Cutters Active and Edisto and a 45-foot Response Boat crew from Coast Guard Station San Diego, responded.

Several bales of marijuana seized from a panga sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Edisto before being transferred over the San Diego Marine Task Force at Naval Base Point Loma, Dec. 10, 2013. The 30-foot panga was intercepted approximately 155 miles south of San Diego. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Gawrelli)

Several bales of marijuana seized from a panga sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Edisto before being transferred over the San Diego Marine Task Force at Naval Base Point Loma, Dec. 10, 2013. . (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Gawrelli)

When Coast Guard vessels converged on the area a brief pursuit ensued in which the smugglers refused to stop.  An aircrew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron that was operating from Active used warning shots, followed by engine disabling fire to render the panga inoperable.   A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft crew also flew on the case to provide continuous aerial coverage.

“All our crews, especially those of the cutter Active and the Helicopter Interceptor Tactical Squadron, should be proud of their accomplishments,” said Capt. Michael Eagle, 11th Coast Guard District Chief of Response.  “In a little more than a week, Active has been involved in stopping two major shipments of illegal drugs.  The Coast Guard aviators and interceptor boat crews who tracked down, warned, and then shot out the engines of the fleeing pangas in these two cases used their law enforcement training, tools, and techniques to safely apprehend five suspected smugglers and stop the delivery of more than six tons of marijuana.  The Coast Guard, along with our international, federal, state and local partners will continue to work to counter these transnational criminal organizations and we will use every available resource to protect our maritime border,” he said.

The 74 bales, three suspects and panga from Tuesday’s interception were taken to San Diego and turned over to the San Diego Marine Task Force, which includes federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

This is the second major interdiction in the area in December, resulting in the seizure of more than 13,100 pounds of marijuana. The first occurred on Dec. 2 when Coast Guard crews interdicted a panga boat with 201 bales of marijuana and two suspected smugglers aboard approximately 140 miles southwest of San Diego.  For information on the previous interdiction follow this link: http://cgne.ws/18j8EPd

Counter-smuggling and law enforcement efforts in the San Diego area are coordinated through a Regional Coordinating Mechanism comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP’s Office of Air and Marine, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners. The ReCoM utilizes the fusion of intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the coastal border.

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