Note: This area continues to be unsecured, at least by US govt.
Trio executed in remote Devil's Canyon, west of I-19
Related: Three men found dead in Tumacacori Mountains; at least two
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 6:09 pm
By Manuel C. Coppola
Investigators say three unidentified men whose bodies were discovered
Monday in the Tumacacori Mountains were shot "execution style."
Border Patrol agents discovered the bodies in the remote Devil's
Canyon area and notified the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office at
about 11 a.m. The victims were airlifted by helicopter at about 5:30
"This is the first triple homicide on my watch," said Antonio
Estrada, who has been sheriff of Santa Cruz County for 19 years. "The
killers were obviously trying to send a message to someone. They were
shot execution style."
He said the bodies did not have any signs of being bound, gagged or
There were no identification documents on the bodies, which were
found 4.2 miles west of Interstate 19 in a "remote and extremely
treacherous area." The bodies had been there no more than a week, he
"Some of our investigators had to be airlifted in and others accessed
the area on four-by-four vehicles," Estrada said.
While the case is still under investigation, Estrada said he suspects
the killings were drug related and that the men were "mules who got
Estrada was referring to drug smugglers who trek through the desert
to remote pick-up points.
He said it is premature to say if this incident will mark a turning
point in heightened border violence, "but it is definitely disturbing."
Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies have already investigated at
least four incidents in the past two months in which groups of
illegal border-crossers reported encounters with armed men in the
wilderness corridor stretching from the Ruby-Arivaca area to the
In addition, authorities recovered a set of skeletal remains from the
Tumacacori Mountains on Nov. 8, two days after they were discovered
by hunters. On Nov. 15, Border Patrol agents working in the Peck Mesa
area west of Rio Rico discovered several human bones. Both of those
cases are under investigation.
Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by suspected border
bandits in the same general area on Dec. 14, 2010. Terry and his
special tactical unit had been deployed to the area following a
similar spate of armed robberies and encounters reported by illegal
Report links wildfires to immigrants by Associated Press
(November 22nd, 2011 @ 7:26am) =
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A study by Congress' investigative arm shows
investigators have linked 30 fires that erupted in a five-year period
in Arizona's border region to people who crossed into the United
States illegally -- a finding Sen. John McCain said backs up earlier
statements he made about illegal immigrants and wildfires.
McCain said this year that fires are sometimes caused by illegal
border crossers, but he did not specify to which fires he was
referring as blazes scorched the southern and eastern parts of the
state. The statements quickly drew criticism from activists who
jumped on him for ``scapegoating.''
McCain and fellow Republicans framed the debate over his statements
as a distraction.
``I hope this report is a lesson to the activists and public
officials that would prefer to engage in partisan character attacks
rather than focus the discussion on the vital need to secure our
southern border,'' McCain said Tuesday.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office report was released by
McCain's office Tuesday at the July 2010 request of the senator and
fellow Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Lisa Murkowski of
Alaska and Jon Kyl of Arizona.
It makes no mention of whether anyone was prosecuted for starting the
fires and offers no hard evidence that immigrants were responsible.
The GAO gathered information for the study, which included fires
within 100 miles of Arizona's border with Mexico, from the National
Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, and interviewed federal,
state and tribal officials along the state's 370-mile border.
Nearly 2,500 wildfires occurred in the Arizona border region from
2006 to 2010, but the GAO studied only those that were human-caused,
burned more than 1 acre and those for which investigative reports
were available. Of the 422 wildfires that topped an acre, federal
fire investigators probed 77, or 18 percent.
The GAO report doesn't cover wildfires in 2011 because investigative
reports were not yet complete when the GAO was conducting its study.
The GAO found that 30 of the probed wildfires were linked to illegal
border crossers primarily in southeastern Arizona based on what was
written in investigative reports. Fifteen were thought to be a signal
for help, provide warmth or cook food. An investigative report on the
2009 Bear fire backed up that suspicion by noting the discovery of
discarded bottles and food wrappers with Spanish language labels near
a campfire. It also noted that the area is frequented by illegal
border crossers and is adjacent to a heavily used smuggling trail,
the GAO report said.
Reports on the other 15 wildfires don't give a reason for the start
of the fire, but the GAO said a couple of them mention that the areas
of ignition are known for drug smuggling.
The GAO also looked at fire incident reports for 1,123 wildfires in
the area over the five-year period and found that 57 of them include
firefighters' suspicions that illegal border crossers were to blame
for ignition. Those reports are not formal investigations into the
The GAO said federal officials should come up with a strategy on
which fires to investigate and use that to guide fire prevention
activities and resources. Without a plan that includes selecting and
prioritizing wildfire investigations, the frequency in which the
blazes are caused by illegal border crossers remains unknown, the
Federal officials cited a lack of available trained investigators to
look into human-caused wildfires, according to the GAO report. Both
the Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said
providing security for firefighters or their equipment often ranks
higher on the priority list.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell agreed with the report's
observations and recommendations. He said an interagency group is
working on standardized policy for wildfire investigations.
Arizona recorded its largest wildfire in state history this year with
the 835-square-mile Wallow Fire that destroyed 32 homes, four rental
cabins and forced nearly 10,000 people to evacuate. Two cousins have
been charged with starting the blaze.
The smaller Horseshoe Two fire atop the Chiricahua mountains burned
348 square miles and destroyed nine homes. That fire investigation
report indicates that drug smugglers continued to use the area while
the blaze was under suppression, according to the GAO. Another
wildfire burning at the time, the 47-square- mile Monument fire
destroyed 57 homes.
The GAO also looked at how fire suppression has been impacted by the
presence of illegal border crossers. The Forest Service issued a
report in 2006 saying the border region could be dangerous for
firefighters because of potential encounters with drug smugglers,
high-speed pursuits, biological hazards and illegal border crossers
seeking food, water or rescue. The GAO said federal officials it
interviewed did not identify any specific threats or assaults.
But the federal officials said firefighting efforts sometimes are
hampered over concerns about border crossers in the area.