Monday, April 05, 2010

Ranchers Alarmed by Killing Near Border - NY Times

Sooner or later, they all feared, one of them would be killed. The ranchers, retirees and others who prefer to live off the grid in the vast desert near the Mexican border regularly confront the desperate and dehydrated illegal border crossers, who knock on their doors for directions and water, and lately more of the less innocent, who scurry across their land or lie low in the brush, stooped with marijuana and other drugs bundled on their backs. Now, according to the leading police theory, the inevitable has occurred, whipping up a political storm and sending a shiver through a community not easily shaken. “You never know who you’re dealing with out here because you get all kinds of traffic through here,” said William McDonald, a fellow rancher on the vast mesquite scrubland pocked with canyons and scattered mountain ranges floating on the horizon like islands. Mr. McDonald and other residents said that in the last year or two the traffic had taken a more sinister turn, with larger numbers of drug smugglers, many clad in black and led by armed scouts. “It was only a matter of time,” he said. “Everything was in place for something like this to happen.” Residents said they believed that the completion of a segment of the border wall near Douglas shifted smuggling traffic farther east in the last couple of years to more remote, rugged areas along the New Mexico border. The area is guarded by two divisions of the Border Patrol who use different types of radios and have had trouble communicating with each other, officials at the agency have acknowledged. In addition, ranchers said, many of the agents are newly hired and unfamiliar with the area, slowing response times. While some believe that the border wall completed in the last few years has slowed down large groups, many others have little faith in it. By all accounts, Mr. Krentz never got caught up in border politics. A bear of a man with a reserved nature, he could seem imposing at first glance but almost always rendered help to those who needed it, friends and family said. “He was a typical ranch kid,” said Wendy Glenn, a neighbor and longtime friend who said she heard Mr. Krentz’s last transmission on her radio. Now, like others, Ms. Glenn said she planned to be more cautious. “Usually if somebody needs help, you walk up to them and help them,” she said. “We won’t just walk up and offer help anymore.”...more

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