The Department of Homeland Security has taken a more active role in responding to potential mass casualty incidents and has been mobilizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations team when alerted to active shooter situations.
Units from the Air and Marine Operations were deployed on Wednesday to assist the El Paso Police Department following reports of an active shooter at the Cielo Vista Mall.
According to a statement from CBP, an AS350 helicopter was dispatched to the scene alongside ground agents who coordinated with local law enforcement.
Just days before the incident in El Paso and over 1,600 miles away, members of the Great Lakes Air and Marine branch were deployed to Michigan State University in Lansing. Here, members of the Border Patrol Special Operations K9 team, alongside AMO tactical teams, helped canvas the surrounding area. When it became known that the shooter had taken his own life, the teams were recalled to their base.
“Our crews are ready to respond to active shooter events, day or night,” stated Marc Sledge, Director of Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch. “We remain ready to rapidly mobilize, with our law enforcement partners, to enhance situational awareness and officer safety, and to also keep the public safe.”
In 2022, AMO units responded to a total of 16 active shooter incidents. This year, the federal law enforcement agency is on pace to hit 72 responses — an increase of 350%.
AMO teams are postured to dynamically respond to active shooter incidents. The have responded to 12 active shooter incidents since the beginning of this fiscal year to Feb. 16. This figure demonstrates an increase in AMO response to similar contingency events when compared to the previous fiscal year. AMO teams responded to 16 active shooter incidents in fiscal year 2022.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, AMO’s Yuma branch in Arizona was responsible for locating the suspect involved in the Gila Ridge High School shooting and then “worked with Border Patrol partners” to make the arrest.
AMO was responsible for 967 arrests and 134,981 apprehensions of illegal immigrants in 2022. In the same year, units from AMO intercepted over a quarter-million pounds of cocaine in addition to thousands of pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine. During their operations, 1,342 weapons were seized, and $21.7 million was recovered.
AMO has 1,800 agents in addition to a mission support staff, an air group comprised of 240 fixed and rotary aircraft, a fleet of over 300 vessels, and, at the federal level, considers itself the nation’s “expert in airborne and maritime law enforcement.”