Tuesday, March 22, 2016

After abduction, ranchers are angry

It was mid-day when the ranch hand stumbled upon drug smugglers, alone in the desert a couple of hundred miles west of El Paso, in one of the southern border’s most rugged corridors. The tale of what followed, an alleged abduction that left the ranch hand alive but shaken, has angered ranchers who for generations have worked this desolate land, where New Mexico pushes south into Mexico like the heel of a boot. Apprehensions of illegal crossers along the southern border have dropped sharply, the data show. But out here in the Bootheel, lawlessness is growing as smugglers look for alternatives to their traditional routes, ranchers say...The meeting in Animas was precipitated by the alleged abduction of a ranch hand whose name has not been released. The U.S. Border Patrol confirmed it has handed the investigation over to the FBI, which does not comment on ongoing investigations. The ranch hand is employed by Animas-based Elbrock Water Systems, which is owned by Tricia Elbrock along with her husband and son. She tells the story. According to Elbrock, it was mid-day on Dec. 7, when her employee was driving to a water well to make a repair on the Diamond A Ranch, described by the Nature Conservancy as a “500-square-mile gem nestled in the boot heel of New Mexico.” He was about 10 miles north of the southern border. It’s unforgiving terrain, with few unpaved roads and no cell service. The land is as dry as old bones and broken by small mountains and arroyos. “He got the job done and headed back, and that’s when they hijacked him,” Elbrock said. He came upon three vehicles loaded with drugs, she said. The men appeared armed. One of the vehicles was stuck, so the alleged smugglers commandeered the ranch hand’s truck to try to free their vehicle. It didn’t work. So “they threw out all the tools, equipment and materials in our truck, tied him up and blindfolded him and loaded all of their drugs on our truck.” Elbrock said they first learned something might be wrong when they got a call from the ranch hand’s wife. He carried a satellite phone and always called his wife to let her know when he would be in. “At 8 p.m. when he had not called, (his wife) called us. My husband and another went out to search for him with the ranch manager,” Elbrock said. They found nothing but the little notebook he usually kept in his shirt pocket on the ground, so they called law enforcement, and a search started. He was left tied and blindfolded with his truck in the desert near Wilcox, Arizona, Elbrock said. He managed to escape his bonds and drive to Wilcox to call for help...more

No comments: