By Frank James
It's safe to say the security problem at the southern border of the U.S. is so severe and constant, we're likely to see a steady stream of horror stories that will only spur more calls for greater and more effective enforcement there.
Like the drama in the Arizona desert Friday. A sheriff's deputy investigating individuals who were apparently moving bales of marijuana north from Mexico into the U.S. came under AK-47 gunfire. The Pinal County sheriff's deputy was injured but, fortunately, it was only a flesh wound.
The sheriff's deputy also had the good fortune of being at least armed with an AR-15, the civilian equivalent of the military's M-16, which at least allowed him to return fire on a somewhat equal basis. He wasn't completely outgunned, as has sometimes been the case in encounters between local enforcement and drug and human smugglers.
The deputy's encounter, however, led to an hour-long search for him by law enforcement officials who also sought his attackers.
Five men suspected of smuggling drugs across the border ambushed a Pinal County sheriff's deputy Friday in a remote area south of Phoenix, underscoring the border-related violence that has catapulted Arizona and its new immigration law onto the national stage.
The rugged desert area where the shooting took place, near the junction of Interstate 8 and Arizona 84 in south-central Arizona, is considered a high-traffic drug- and human-smuggling corridor.
A massive hunt of 100 square miles that included helicopters with night-vision equipment and more than 200 officers, including SWAT teams, from 13 agencies was still pursuing the shooters late Friday.
More than one helicopter came under fire during the evening as officers rescued Deputy Louie Puroll, who had been shot with an AK-47-type weapon around 4 p.m., according to the Sheriff's Office.
Puroll suffered a flesh wound above his kidney that tore off a chunk of skin. He was treated at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center and released Friday night.
"Here we see the tactics have changed and become more dangerous," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said. "This has reached a critical mass for law enforcement."
Babeu said he has "called out for help" from federal officials to no avail. He said smugglers know "the police are after them and the fact they are firing upon us changes the game."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer characterized the incident of another example of how the federal government has failed to secure the nation's borders, specifically Arizona's border with Mexico.
The intimation of her words was that she had done what she had to by signing the controversial recent anti-illegal immigration legislation meant to give law enforcement officers in her state more power to question those they suspect of being illegally in the U.S.
A snippet from her statement:
"As we have seen in the past, drug smugglers and cartel members invading our state are not innocent fathers and mothers longing for a better life for their family. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's manhunt and investigation, Arizona is now confronted by some of the most vicious and dangerous narco-terror organizations the world has seen. Their cause is not honest labor in desperate need of sustenance; it is murder, terror and mayhem in furtherance of a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise.
"The horrendous violence we see by narco-terrorists is uncontrolled, and our own federal government refuses to fulfill its responsibility to secure our border."