Santa Cruz executions show rise of rip crews
Santa Cruz Sheriff thinks bandits stealing drug loads is a sign some drug traffickers find it easier to steal loads than get them over the border in the face of tighter enforcement. Video by kgun9.comvideo
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu says rip crews are a growing threat in his county
Reporter: Craig Smith
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Santa Cruz Sheriff's investigators say three men found executed in a remote part of that county are likely another example of rip crews---border bandits bold enough to cross the cartels and steal their drug loads.
The three were found shot execution style in Devil's Canyon, an area so rough and remote investigators had to get there by helicopter.
Santa Cruz Sheriff Tony Estrada has seen a lot of things in his county in 18 plus years as Sheriff, but never a triple homicide with all three shot in the head execution style.
Sheriif Estrada says, "...and its disturbing. It's troubling and I hope it's not a trend we're beginning to see."
Sheriff Estrada thinks the killers were a rip crew---bandits who ambush drug smugglers to steal their loads.
Almost a year ago Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in a firefight with bandits or rip crews not far from where Border Patrol found the three victims this week.
Farther north, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is fighting rip crews who do more than ambush other criminals deep in the desert. They've even used a fake police car to stop and steal loads on the road.
Sheriff Babeu says rip crew violence is moving out of the desert and into the path of innocent citizens.
"We have seen not just rip crews but cartel smugglers cross Interstate 8, many of them armed with AK 47s, directly in front of our citizens. We have had numerous time where they have tried to carjack vehicles in that area. We have had a drug cartel hit in Casa Grande."
While Sheriff Babeu see rip crews as evidence the Federal government needs to devote more resources, Sheriff Estrada sees rip crews as evidence law enforcement is becoming so effective at stopping cross-border smuggling that rip crews find it better business to steal the loads that do make it through.
He thinks rip crew violence will probably stay in the deep desert.
"That's where they find it to be more successful and coming into the community is gonna make it a it more difficult, they'll be detected, there will be more presence so I think this is gonna be restricted. I don't believe we will be incurring any incursions into the communities."
Sheriff Babeu thinks rip crews are likely independents bold and aggressive enough to risk crossing cartels. Sheriff Estrada thinks they are likely members of one cartel attacking another.