By LYNN BREZOSKY
San Antonio Express-News
Sept. 30, 2010, 6:30PM
BROWNSVILLE — Gunmen presumed to be Mexican drug operatives opened fire on Thursday on a couple riding water skis on the bi-national Falcon Lake reservoir, possibly killing the husband and sending the woman fleeing frantically to the U.S. side, authorities said.
Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said the couple had crossed to the Mexican side when they came under a spray of bullets by two boatloads of men. The man, 30, was shot in the head and his wife said she fears he is dead.
“They saw them approaching and started revving it up back to the U.S. side,” Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “The guys just started shooting at them from behind.”
The shooting follows reports in May that boaters in the famed bass fishing oasis were at risk of being shaken down by “pirates” lurking on the Mexican side.
The 60-mile-long Rio Grande reservoir is shared by the United States and Mexico, and, due to its location along sparsely populated Starr and Zapata counties, it is believed to be a favorite location for trafficking drugs.
Thursday’s reported shooting comes during what may be the most deadly and prolonged streak of Mexican drug cartel violence in memory.
In May, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported several incidents of pirates shaking down U.S. boaters. The robbers in at least one case posed as Mexican federal law enforcement, searching fishing boats for guns and drugs and then demanding cash at gunpoint.
The DPS issued a statement warning people not to cross to the Mexican side of the lake. Boaters were encouraged to file a float plan with family members.
“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 ... using AK-47s or AR-15 rifles to threaten their victims,” it said. “They appear to be using local Mexican fishermen to operate the boats to get close to American fishermen.”
The warning came as Zapata County geared up for a summer of fishing tournaments, prompting the chamber of commerce to say that the warning was drastic and that people were safe if they stayed in U.S. waters.
Falcon Lake was formed by a dam in 1953 to conserve water for agriculture and control downstream flooding.
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