A threat called into a Texas town claiming that a Mexican drug cartel member has kidnapped an officer has federal officials scrambling to account for more than 3,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley.
La Joya police dispatchers received a call around 7 p.m. Thursday from a man claiming to have kidnapped a Border Patrol agent and threatening to kill him, according to Police Chief Geovani Hernandez.
Hernandez says police believe the individual first called 911 Thursday morning to report illegal movement of people near the border. During that call, Hernandez says, the man seemed to believe he had hung up the phone and upon realizing the dispatcher was still on the line, became enraged.
The man called back eight more times on Christmas, Hernandez said, repeatedly cursing at and threatening dispatchers in Spanish.
The man mentioned a Border Patrol agent on the ninth and final call.
In a voice recording released by La Joya police, a man’s voice is heard speaking in Spanish, saying he has a Border Patrol agent.
Hernandez says he believes the man’s claimed affiliation with a cartel, which authorities are not identifying, is legitimate, but Border Patrol officials say they are still trying to authenticate the kidnapping claim.
Oscar Zamora, a Border Patrol spokesman, says the agency is reaching out to more than 3,000 agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector, which includes La Joya, “out of an abundance of caution.” Zamora says the agency has accounted for all on-duty agents, but officials are still trying to confirm the whereabouts of all off-duty agents, a task that has proved challenging with many of the agents off for the holidays.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it is aware of the reports and is in communication with La Joya police, the Border Patrol and the government of Mexico, and “will continue to coordinate … and monitor the situation to determine what, if any, action is appropriate.”
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