Earlier this year, a regional SWAT team led by deputies with the Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office took POLICE Magazine into the Vekol Valley in the Arizona desert to show one way smugglers bring narcotics across the U.S.-Mexico border. Smugglers often use illegal immigrants as drug mules to carry 25-pound marijuana bundles using makeshift "backpacks" of rope and cut strips of Mexican blankets to lessen discomfort. Listen to our podcast, "Tracking Smugglers in Southern Arizona," with Pinal County Sheriff's Sgt. Matt Thomas. Photos by Paul Clinton.
The deputies of the Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office must be extra vigilant when traveling into the rugged desert south of Interstate 8, following the ambush shooting of deputy Louis Puroll and the shooting deaths of two armed gumen with ties to a Mexican drug cartel this spring. Sgt. Matt Thomas, motor supervisor and assistant SWAT commander, speaks exclusively with POLICE Magazine about patroling this hostile territory, detaining illegals and the ramifications of his state's tough new immigration law. PHOTOS: View our gallery, "How Cartels Smuggle Narcotics Into Southern Arizona."