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Law enforcement agencies urging Texans to stay on U.S. side of Falcon Lake

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Following the suspected murder of a U.S. resident on Falcon Lake, Texas law enforcement agencies are telling boaters on Falcon Lake to stay on the U.S. side of the lake. DPS issued the same advisory in May.

A 30-year-old man was believed killed Thursday afternoon while he and his wife were jet-skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, near the Old Guerrero area. Two boatloads of armed men began shooting at the man and his wife, striking the man in the head. The men continued shooting at his wife when she entered U.S. waters. She managed to escape and return to shore on the U.S. side.

The Zapata County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department are telling boaters on Falcon Lake to stay on the United States side of the lake and not venture into Mexican waters.

The Texas Rangers are assisting the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation. TPWD Game Wardens and DPS officers, including Texas Rangers, have been at Falcon Lake since Thursday assisting the Zapata County Sheriff. TPWD has two 21-foot boats on the water today with at least six Game Wardens. DPS has deployed its SWAT team, one of its helicopters and its river boat. Additional DPS and TPWD resources are on standby.

Since April 30, at least four incidents have been reported to law enforcement agencies after U.S. residents ventured into Mexican waters on Lake Falcon, including near the Old Guerrero area. Three of the incidents involved people who had gone into the Mexican side of the lake, passing the International Waters markers.

Previous incidents reported:

April 30: Four heavily armed men boarded two boats near the Old Guerrero area demanding money. The bandits were given $200 in cash and tried to follow the U.S. boats as they sped back to U.S. waters. The bandits stopped once they reached the United States boundary.

• May 6: Two armed men approached a boat near Marker 14 on the north side of Salado Island on top of the ruins at Old Guerrero. The men demanded money, which the fishermen gave them.

• May 16: Five armed men boarded a boat on the United States side of the lake near Marker 7. Investigators have no further information on the incident.

• Aug 31: Falcon Lake pirates, using a small boat marked “Game Wardin” using duct-taped letters to possibly mimic Texas Parks and Wildlife vessels operating in Texas waters, attempted to stop a Texas fisherman.  His knowledge of previous DPS safety warnings about Falcon Lake and the misspelling of the word “Warden” alerted the fisherman that something was wrong and he outran the Mexican vessel to safety.

Fishermen are still advised to stay as far away as possible from any of the Argos-type fishing boats typically used as fishing vessels by Mexican fishermen. These boats have a large prow, a small outboard motor without a cowling and no identification numbers on the hull.

The robbers are believed to be members of a drug trafficking organization or members of an enforcer group linked to a drug trafficking organization who are heavily armed and using AK-47s or AR-15 rifles to threaten their victims. They appear to be using local Mexican fishermen to operate the boats to get close to American fishermen.

Anyone who is involved in an incident on Falcon Lake should dial 911 and report it to the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office.

To maximize safety, boaters should stay in U.S. waters on Falcon Lake and file a float plan. This means leaving a detailed note with family members telling the time and place of departure (boat ramp), destination and direction of travel, boater cell phone number if available, names of passengers and what they're wearing, and a description of the boater's vehicle and boat, including boat and vehicle license numbers.

The U.S. State Department website lists several travel alerts related to violence in Mexico. Travelers should always check that website for the most up-to-date information related to security issues in Mexico. (See http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html).

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