21 Mexican Nationals Caught in Two-Boat Maritime Smuggling Attempt

Coast Guard fireman watches over 9 tons of cocaine.
FILE -- Fireman Marlon Fernandes stands armed with a rifle watching over more than 18,000 pounds of palletized cocaine on the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s (WMSL 750) flight deck prior to the crew offloading the contraband, in San Diego, Dec. 18, 2019. (Matthew S. Masaschi/U.S. Coast Guard)

Federal authorities intercepted 21 Mexican nationals trying to enter the U.S. illegally in a pair of panga boats off the San Diego coast early Friday, officials said.

The boats were spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft about 1 a.m. as they crossed from Mexican territorial waters toward the United States, authorities said. A CBP Air and Marine Operations boat was sent to intercept one panga while a Coast Guard boat headed toward the other.

The CBP boat reached the first panga about 3:30 a.m. The panga's captain refused orders to stop, and the agents fired two warning shots, officials said. With no apparent response from the panga, the CBP crew fired a round into the panga's engine, disabling it, according to CBP.

The boat stopped about 5 miles from Point Loma, and agents apprehended seven people on board.

The second boat also refused Coast Guard orders to yield and ended up landing near Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, officials said. Border Patrol agents on the beach apprehended four people who tried to climb out of the boat and found nine others in a nearby park with help from CBP. Another person was found trying to swim away but was caught on the jetty.

This article is written by Kristina Davis from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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