McLennan County Sheriff’s Office sends helicopter to the border

“It’s far worse than the public realizes,” says Sheriff McNamara.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 12:58 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Some of the arrests made at the U.S.-Mexico border this month were done with the help of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Parnell McNamara sent a specialized team down to a border county asking for help.

“We never want to turn anybody down if we can possibly help them,” said McNamara.

McNamara says Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque requested assistance at a recent Sheriff’s conference.

“He stated that they were so short-handed and they’ve got their back to the wall down there at the border with the tens of thousands of migrants coming across, the drugs, the human trafficking and so forth, and he said they would welcome any help that any sheriff anywhere could give them,” said McNamara. “I said ‘could you use a helicopter?’ and he says ‘oh my gosh, absolutely.’”

As promised, this month McNamara sent one of his agency’s helicopters down to Zapata County to assist in border operations.

“The battle rages on down on the border,” said McNamara. “It’s far worse than the public realizes.”

A three-person team from the MCSO’s Aviation Division returned from Zapata County last week: the team’s second trip in two weeks.

“We’re getting gang members, we’re getting Cartel people, we’re getting drug dealers of all kinds,” said McNamara.

After a total of six days and more than 830 miles flown, the team came home with a stark realization.

“It’s real,” said Shawn Nixon, Captain of the MCSO’s Special Operations Division. “It’s probably worse than I expected.”

Nixon said, it was clear: help is needed at the border, and not just for law enforcement.

“The citizens, the land owners, they have to worry about people coming through their property, through their homes, through their out buildings,” said Nixon. “It’s a constant battle for them.”

Working equal parts day and night, Nixon said the team, which included Lt. Joseph Ballew and deputy Michael Graham, helped local, state and federal agencies deter, detect and apprehend illegal immigrants and human traffickers.

“The guys that are with me are constantly ‘eyes on the ground’ looking, and I’m ‘eyes in the air’ making sure there’s nothing in our way,” said Nixon. “We encountered traffickers moving illegal immigrants across the border in boats, encountered some narcotics movement, encountered bodies in the water.”

One of those bodies was spotted by a Border Patrol balloon camera (an Aerostat), however, they weren’t sure what it was at first, so they sent the chopper to investigate--it ended up being a man who was tortured before being shot in the head and thrown in the river, they determined.

“He had been bound and gagged and badly tortured, just a sad deal,” said McNamara. “Once you go to the border, and you see the problem first-hand like these guys did, it’s a no-brainer: shut the border down, Border Patrol is absolutely overwhelmed, the sheriff’s are, DPS is, everybody is trying their hardest that they possibly can to secure our borders and keep our state secure, but it’s impossible with these open borders.”

Final numbers are expected next week, however, there’s already been more arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year than ever before.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection: they’re on track to tally more than 2.3 million arrests for this fiscal year, which ends Friday--that’s the most ever, breaking last year’s record of 1.7 million arrests.

“The border is wide open, it’s a horrible situation, it’s not just a Texas problem, these people are going all the way up North and committing crimes up there, not all of them, but part of them, and they are very dangerous individuals, so lock it down,” said McNamara. “There’s ways that these people can come in and be vetted and come in the right way, the legal way.”

McNamara says in order to protect McLennan County, it’s become necessary to strike at the border first.

“If we can stop the problem, if we can stop the drugs, stop the trafficking before it gets to McLennan County, we’re ahead of the game,” said McNamara.

The trips will be almost entirely covered by Operation Lone Star funding, according to MCSO officials.

“I’m so proud of them, they were down there in the battle zone, they flew that river,” said McNamara.

McNamara says they’ve already been asked to fly back.

“They really appreciated our guys going down there and helping them out, and so we may go back,” he said.