6 months ago
Just one week before the shooting that killed at least 8 in Agua Prieta, the State Department issued a travel warning specifically naming the area and the eastern border of Sonora.
Many travelers say they weren't aware of the warning. Some believe it isn't a big issue, saying there are problems everywhere.
Here's a look at the alert posted to the State Department website Jan. 9:
Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora - Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the State of Sonora which borders the State of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to a roadblock instituted by local indigenous and environmental groups. In December 2013, a gun battle involving Mexican authorities and TCOs occurred in Puerto Penasco. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should remain vigilant, exercise caution and use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, in order to limit driving through Mexico.
Others say more needs to be done to alert travelers of what's going on.
"I'll definitely keep my eyes out. How about you? They're definitely needs to be a better job of getting the word out about that. We're going to have to figure out how safe it is," traveler Jack Rhodes said.
"I appreciate having the information but it would not keep me from going into Mexico. I think when you are traveling anywhere just want to be aware of your surroundings and be smart," he said.
6 months ago
DOUGLAS - A travel warning had been issued for Agua Prieta and Sonora just before this weekend's shootout south of the border.
Most of the people News 4 Tucson talked to as they crossed from Mexico into Douglas Monday said they had no idea a U.S. travel warning was in effect.
To read more on which areas of Mexico the U.S. Government warns about click here.
6 months ago
DOUGLAS - Agua Prieta is just on the other side of the fence from Douglas, Arizona. The dusty town plays a major role for the drug cartels. Retired federal agent Terry Kirkpatrick says, "Just 30 miles north of the town they are actually growing and cultivating marijuana."
Kirkpatrick is all too familiar with Agua Prieta. In 1990, he was among the agents who discovered the first trans border tunnel. Kirkpatrick says, "It was the beginning of drugs being openly smuggled in massive amounts."
The tunnel went from Agua Prieta to Douglas. The elaborate concrete tunnel was the length of a football field complete with ventilation, lighting and a hydraulic system that raised a floor where a pool table sat on top.
Underneath it, a passageway from Mexico into the U.S. Agents say it was used to smuggle thousands of pounds of cocaine.
Kirkpatrick says it's the age old story of trying to control the smuggling routes. He says it's going to get worse before it gets better. "Simply because the government is so corrupt. Until they can stop the corruption in the government the old Mexican saying "plata o plomo", The silver or the lead nothing will ever change down there."
6 months ago
TUCSON - U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secrectary Jeh Johnson will be touring Southern Arizona this week.
The secretary will be visiting border operations in Tucson and Douglas Wednesday.
He'll be receiving briefings on border security. Johnson is also scheduled to meet with state and local law enforcement officials.
The trip to Douglas comes after a mass shooting just across the border in Agua Prieta.
At least 8 people were killed in a gunbattle. The cartel-related violence involved massive amounts of munitions, including automatic weapons, 50-caliber weapons and even hand grenades.
6 months ago
DOUGLAS, Ariz. - The border community in southeast Arizona is on edge after an intense gun battle ravaged a city just south of the U.S.-Mexico Border.
Authorities said that a violent gun battled took place in Agua Prieta around 1 a.m. Saturday, just south of Douglas, Ariz., claiming between eight and 13 lives, according to the Cochise County Sherriff's Office. None of the listed deaths are U.S. citizens.
The cartel-related gun fight reportedly involved massive amounts of munitions, including automatic weapons, 50-caliber weapons and even hand grenades.
"We don't even want to go over there... might as well stay safe here," said Carina Martinez, a life-long Douglas resident.
Martinez made a quick trip to Agua Prieta Sunday afternoon to go shopping. She described the streets of the Mexican city as ‘nervous.'
"It's completely dead... everybody's armed over there... big guns," Martinez told News 4 Tucson.
Even the Port of Entry is quiet with minimal traffic flow.
"There's usually a big line. You take at least 30-40 minutes tops... and nothing, it's dead," Martinez said.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels is urging everyone to remain on high alert.
"It's a very unstable, very unrest situation right now. Hopefully the calm will continue and we'll go back to normality, but in the meantime people need to be very vigilant with their surroundings," Dannels said.
While law enforcement doesn't believe that cartel violence will spill over into the U.S., it's unclear how long the residents in Douglas and the surrounding areas will remain on edge.
6 months ago
AGUA PRIETA - New details being released on a shoot-out in Agua Prieta, Sonora south the US/Mexico border where several fatalities occurred in two separate incidents.
According to the Cochise County Sheriff's Office all information received indicates that this is probably cartel related with massive amounts of munitions used to include automatic weapons, 50 caliber weapons, and hand grenades.
The Cochise County Sheriff's Office is reporting the death toll between 8-13 people, none of whom are listed as US Citizens.
As a proactive and precautionary measure, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office has placed personnel on a heightened state of alert which will allow for the deployment of additional personnel and the augmentation of existing personnel should it be determined that this violence may potentially spill over into the United States via Cochise County's international boundaries.
Sheriff Dannels said today, "Our information indicates that this is an internal fight within the confines of the country of Mexico and will most likely stay there, however we remain vigilant in our duty to protect our citizens at all costs. If in fact there are criminal factions that intend to bring their issues to the United States, we want to assure them that we are working closely with local, state, and federal agencies to be prepared as necessary and be successful in our mission to stop any violence from occurring in our county."