Patrol Inspector Thad Pippin met his death in the mountains near Pelea, New Mexico, on the night of April 21, 1927, during the course of a gunfight in which he and a brother officer were engaged with smugglers. Patrol Inspector Crossett, who was with him, was wounded four times.
On information that contraband was being smuggled into the United States through mountains south of the western end of the smelter district of El Paso, a number of Patrol Inspectors, including Inspector Pippin, about 6 p.m., on April 21, 1927, went to Pelea, New Mexico, near these mountains, and continued until they arrived near the trails leading out of Mexico across the mountains. Just before dark, they discovered a pack train approaching along the trail at some distance. It had not yet arrived at a point where the trails intersected and the officers could not ascertain which trail the train would take. The officers divided into two teams and guarded their respective trails until after dark, when one team of officers decided that the pack train must have taken the other trail and started down the mountain in that direction. They had not gone far before they heard rapid shooting from the direction of the other trail, which the team consisting of Inspectors Crossett and Pippin was guarding. When the first-mentioned team reached the point where the shooting took place they found Inspector Crossett had been shot four times and was in urgent need of medical attention. While one Patrol Inspector went to telephone headquarters, another remained with Crossett and in the meantime located the body of Inspector Pippin, which had fallen down an embankment after having been shot and killed. Nineteen gallons of liquor and two burros were seized at the time but none of the smuggling party was apprehended