By Dan Shearer, Green Valley News
Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 1:22 PM MST
A U.S. surveyor and a suspected lookout for Mexican drug runners exchanged gunfire near the border Thursday after a short standoff that found them pointing weapons at each other.
The surveyor was looking for stone monuments that mark the U.S.-Mexico border near Tres Bellotas Ranch, south of Arivaca, when he heard a noise on a ridge, according to a Pima County Sheriff’s Office report. He then came face-to-face with a man wearing what he described as “the old battle-dress uniform of the U.S. Army.” The surveyor, whose name was redacted in the report, pulled his 9mm pistol while the man in camouflage pointed a rifle at him. The standoff lasted just a few seconds as the men looked at each other, then lowered their weapons.
The surveyor, who did not speak Spanish, said the other man uses gestures to ask whether there were other people in the area. He said no, and the man said, “adios” and walked away.
The man in fatigues walked about 600 feet when the surveyor said he heard two voices then heard six shots in his direction. He “hit the deck,” according to the report, and returned seven shots. He said he was unsure whether the shots from the two men came near him, and no shells or casings were discovered during an investigation.
The surveyor left on his ATV and called authorities.
The incident occurred in Santa Cruz County, and sheriff’s officials there along with Border Patrol agents took over the investigation. According to the PCSO report, the surveyor apparently “had just stumbled across a group (of drug runners) preparing to cross” and the shots were fired to scare him off.
Tres Bellotas Ranch is about 10 miles due south of Arivaca. It’s the same place where a Mexican military helicopter carrying about half a dozen armed men landed on the U.S. side of the border five years ago this month.
They showed interest in a fuel truck, according to a U.S. worker who spoke to the Mexicans in the helicopter. The men then boarded the helicopter and left.
The worker said he later received a message from the FBI to say nothing about the incident.