Suspected smugglers shoot three US border agents off Puerto Rico coast

WASHINGTON – Suspected smugglers engaged in a shootout with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, leaving three injured, off the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico, the agency said Thursday.

The agents, who specialize in intercepting substances and people illegally approaching US territory, were about 14 miles off the coast of Cabo Rojo when they exchanged gunfire with people aboard a boat suspected of carrying illicit substances to the island, according to the CBP.

“The Marine Agents suffered various gunshot injuries as a result,” the agency said in an email to the Post. “The agents are being airlifted by CBP and Coast Guard to the Puerto Rico Trauma Center.”

The Washington Examiner, citing unnamed sources, said one agent died in the shooting, but CBP did not confirm that information to The Post. The news organization also claimed the smugglers were moving illicit drugs.

“The event is currently under investigation,” the agency said. “Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.”

People looking at a helicopter next to an ambulance
A Border Patrol agent reportedly died following a shootout with suspected smugglers.
A Border Patrol agent on a boat at sea
US Customs and Border Protection patrols U.S. coastal waters for illegal activities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The agents — who have not been named — worked for CBP’s Air and Marine Operations division (AMO), which employs 1,800 federal agents and support personnel who patrol the skies and seas for illegal activity and threats to national security throughout the US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, according to its website.

“AMO interdicts unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks and provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments and responds to contingencies and national taskings,” the division said on its website.

The unit seized nearly 325,000 pounds of cocaine, 780,000 pounds of marijuana, 1,200 pounds of fentanyl and 18,500 pounds of methamphetamine in fiscal year 2021, according to the AMO.