UPDATE: Governor to Visit Site of Drug Tunnel in San Luis Friday
Governor Doug Ducey's office says the Governor will tour the drug tunnel discovered by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Border Patrol Agents in San Luis, AZ on Friday.
Gov. Ducey will be joined by HSI Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown, Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Anthony Porvaznik, Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, and Arizona Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Heston Silbert.
The statement from the Governor's office says he will "view first-hand" the tunnel used to traffic narcotics into the United States. It was discovered earlier this month following a routine traffic stop by San Luis Police.
UPDATE: Building Owner Arrested, New Details About Tunnel Discovery
The owner of an empty fast food restaurant in San Luis is in custody following his arrest in connection to a cross-border tunnel found in the building earlier this month. The man was identified by the Border Patrol yesterday at a press conference in Yuma.
Ivan Lopez was stopped for a traffic violation August 13th by San Luis Police. Drugs found in toolboxes on his vehicle led a team of local and federal law enforcement to the former Kentucky Fried Chicken location, where they found a small exit hole in the floor that dropped down some 20 feet to a tunnel they would later discover stretches more than 500 feet toward and under the U.S.-Mexico border.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge, Scott Brown, says the exit point in the concrete floor was about 8 inches in diameter. The size confirmed its use as a delivery system for specific kinds of drugs as it is too small for a human to pass through and not large enough for the bales of marijuana usually associated with smuggling. Agents expanded the opening to get down into the tunnel.
"A lot of very hard work by the border patrol tunnel team out of San Diego. Had a lot of work that they had to do to make sure they were operating safely to go down into the tunnel," Brown told KAWC at Wednesday's press conference.
Teams like the one out of San Diego follow safety protocols and are specially trained to work in confined spaces. In this case, Brown says, they did not feel the tunnel was structurally sound enough to travel all the way through it.
Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Anthony Porvaznik says the tunnel is the fifth found in the Yuma Sector since 2007. He told KAWC there are fewer tunnels in the region because of the soil make-up.
"I think that the soil composition here doesn't lend itself well to building a tunnel and then shoring it up. Because a couple of tunnels we have found here have collapsed because of the sandy soil," he said.
Mexican authorities found the entrance to the tunnel in a residence in San Luis Rio Colorado on August 14th.
During the Lopez traffic stop, K-9 units alerted agents to more than 300 pounds of drugs in the vehicle, including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and 3 millon doses of fentanyl.
U.S. Border Patrol says a tunnel discovered in the Arizona border town of San Luis was primarily used to bring hard narcotics into the U.S. The tunnel was located following a routine traffic stop by the San Luis Police Department.