A US Customs and Border Protection agent was killed and two others were wounded in a shootout with people aboard a smuggling vessel off the coast of Puerto Rico on Thursday.
CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quinones said a man on board was also killed in the shooting. Another person has been arrested, the agency said.
Mr. Quinones said the shooting began about 8 a.m. after agents approached the ship about 14 miles off the coast of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. The agents then opened fire.
The Coast Guard airlifted the officers, who are Marine Interdiction Agents with CBP, to the Puerto Rico Trauma Center and Mayaguez Hospital, the agency said.
Later in the morning, another marine interdiction crew intercepted another vessel with two passengers on board, the agency said. Firearms and contraband were found inside the vessel. CBP said two US citizens were arrested. Officials said the incidents are under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
At a Senate committee hearing Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was briefed on the incident.
“These are brave members of our air and marine operations at US Customs and Border Protection,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “So the difficulty of this job is incomparable to the difficulty our frontline officers face every day, and their bravery and selfless service must be recognized.”
CBP’s air and marine operations have approximately 1,800 federal agents and officers. Using dozens of aircraft and marine vessels, the agency is charged with interdicting human trafficking and preventing the entry of illegal goods and drugs into the US.
On Wednesday, Border Patrol agents seized 198 pounds of cocaine, valued at $2 million, that had been abandoned near a makeshift vessel on a beach in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. CBP said in a statement that the 23-foot-tall vessel overturned and a man’s body was trapped underneath.
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