U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will soon get a major upgrade. Two Blackhawk helicopters are to be deployed in South Texas after a CBP helicopter took gunfire near the Mexican border, reports KGNS in Laredo.
The helicopter was fired at from the Mexican side of the border near Laredo last Friday, forcing an emergency landing. The aircraft was flying over an area notorious for illicit border crossing and narcotics smuggling, reported CNN.
A bulletproof vest on the floor of the helicopter reportedly prevented a bullet from hitting the pilot. Everyone aboard survived the incident unscathed. "The rounds penetrated and damaged the aircraft, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing," the FBI said in a statement. "The pilot sustained no injuries and no individuals on the ground were affected."
The new helicopters are intended to increase protection for CBP agents. “I don't want our men and women of CBP to be at any risk," said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, according to KGNS. The new aircraft are expected to arrive in Laredo by Friday and will patrol a large area of the Rio Grande Valley. The Blackhawks will have numerous upgrades, including armor for the type of fire that forced the emergency landing last Friday.
"The Black Hawk is armored against small-arms fire of the sort used in the recent incident, carries a larger crew than the EC120 helicopter currently used in the area, and is well-suited for operating in a higher-threat environment,” Cuellar said in a statement, via the Laredo Morning Times. He said the duration of the helicopters' stay with CBP will depend on the threat faced by agents in the area.
Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza told CNN that hearing gunfire isn't unusual but border shootings are rare.