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Man arrested after failing to evade CBP Air and Marine Operations helicopters

Release Date: 
November 25, 2019

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A man was arrested Wednesday after he landed his airplane in the U.S. without authorization and fled from personnel with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations

The incident occurred when agents from the Bellingham Air and Marine Branch detected the airplane enter the U.S. and land at the Methow Valley Airport in Winthrop. When agents approached the pilot to question him, he jumped into his airplane and flew away.

Agents pursued the airplane in helicopters and observed the pilot throw several bags out of the airplane into the wilderness.

As the airplane approached Canada, CBP received permission to continue the pursuit across the border. The CBP helicopters followed the airplane to the Langley, British Columbia, Airport, where the airplane landed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Federal Border Enforcement Team, with assistance from the Lower Mainland District Emergency Response Team (LMD ERT), RCMP Air Services and the Langley RCMP, arrested the man and seized the airplane. CBP’s helicopters remained in an over watch position during the arrest.

“Due to the exceptional skills of our pilots and air interdiction agents, we were able to ensure that this man did not escape arrest,” said Jeremy Thompson, Director, Bellingham Air and Marine Branch. “Additionally, our partnerships and coordination with Canadian law enforcement agencies played a crucial role in the arrest of this man.”

In Fiscal Year 2019, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the seizure or disruption of 284,825 pounds of cocaine, 101,874 pounds of marijuana, 51,058 pounds of methamphetamine, 935 weapons and $34.1 million, 1,575 arrests, 52,036 apprehensions of illegal aliens.                           

AMO has a critical role in CBP’s national security mission, which at times requires AMO personnel to interact with members of the general aviation community. AMO is committed to working with the general aviation community to exercise this responsibility while safeguarding the civil liberties of the flying public. While the great majority of pilots are law abiding, some are not. There are criminals who seek to exploit the freedom and convenience of operating general aviation aircraft to conduct illegal activities, such as transportation of narcotics, aliens, or other illicit cargo, often in furtherance of international smuggling schemes.

If a general aviation pilot has crossed an international border or the legal prerequisites for border search authority are otherwise present, AMO agents may search the aircraft pursuant to long-established federal law consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Further questions regarding the incident should be directed to the BC RCMP.

Last modified: 
November 25, 2019