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Fire chief reports that agents tried to halt ambulance

One of the complaints fielded by the ACLU about Border Patrol checkpoints comes from the Columbus fire chief.

Chief Ken Riley reported that Border Patrol agents have tailed or tried to stop his ambulance when he skirts the checkpoint on N.M. 11 toward Deming during an emergency transport, allegedly endangering patients in need of critical care.

The El Paso Sector Border Patrol told the Journal it has no record of any official allegations made by ambulance services that agents stopped or delayed a life-saving trip to the hospital.

The Columbus ambulance has been used in the past to smuggle immigrants unlawfully into the country.

A year ago in March, Columbus resident Samuel Elliott pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. In 2013, Elliott loaded the immigrants into an ambulance belonging to the Columbus Fire Department and blew through the Border Patrol checkpoint on N.M. 11 with the sirens on.

Border Patrol agents followed the ambulance and intercepted it when Elliott stopped to transfer the immigrants to another vehicle.

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“We won’t stop an ambulance if they let central dispatch know,” Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero said. “But in cases where nobody has called us and the agents notice something suspicious, will they follow the ambulance? Probably.”

Columbus emergency management officials are supposed to notify central dispatch when headed north to the hospital in Deming – but during real emergencies, with Columbus short-staffed, that doesn’t always happen, Riley said.

“On several occasions they have wanted to search the ambulance or run a dog on the ambulance even before we get the patient out,” Riley said. “I would like to see them be answerable to somebody, somewhere. We don’t have anybody above them that we can go to, to get a second opinion or new direction.”

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