Three U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents patrolling off Puerto Rico's coast came under fire from a suspected smuggling vessel, killing one agent and wounding two others, CNN reports. One suspected smuggler was also killed and three were arrested. The two surviving agents are being treated in Puerto Rico for multiple gunshot wounds, according to Dr. Israel Ayala, medical director of Puerto Rico's Medical Services Administration. One required surgery and is in critical condition while the other was treated for less serious wounds. The identities of the agents have not been made public.
The Associated Press reports that the agents were on a routine CBP Air and Marine Operations patrol in a major drug smuggling corridor for South American cocaine. The area, the Mona Passage, lies between Puerto Rico’s western coastline and the Dominican Republic. CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones said it was too early to know where the vessel originated from, the nationality of its passengers and whether it was carrying narcotics or servicing another suspected drug vessel in the Caribbean. Typically, drug cartels recruit poor fishermen from Colombia and Venezuela to transport large amounts of cocaine northward to the Dominican Republic, where it is broken down into smaller bales and transferred at sea to waiting vessels manned by better-paid, sometimes well-armed Puerto Rican drug runners.