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Police Say Fort Ringgold Drug Smuggling was "Orchestrated by School District Employee"

Starr County Special Crimes Unit (SCU) Director, Chief Noe Castillo, announced at a press conference held at City Hall this afternoon that three suspects have been arrested and charged with possession of marihuana .

According to a statement released by the SCU, 290 pounds of marihuana were found hidden under plywood in the bed of a cloned Rio Grande City CISD pick-up truck. Emanuel Pena, 30, from Rio Grande City, Juan Enrique Medrano Jr., 28, from Edinburg, and Mario Lopez, 33, from Rio Grande City, were charged with Possession of Marihuana, a Second Degree Felony. Pena was charged with Evading Arrest, and a search warrant was also executed last night at the residence of Mario Lopez.

"The Starr County Special Crimes Unit took action on an ongoing investigation of a drug smuggling ring. The SCU, in coordination with the Starr County HIDTA Taskforce and the Rio Grande City CISD Police Department, initiated an operation yesterday just before 1:00 PM.," stated Chief Castillo. "This operation was carried out based on surveillance and information which indicated that drug shipments were being smuggled through Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City. These loads were being crossed at the river not far from the school grounds. There are two elementary schools within Fort Ringgold. Once on school property, the drugs were then loaded onto a cloned school pick-up truck marked with magnetic CISD official decals. We further learned that the drug smuggling through Fort Ringgold was being orchestrated by a school district employee who was driving an official school district van while escorting the drug loads."

"In yesterday’s operation (Tuesday, May 22) SCU investigators, HIDTA Agents, and the Rio Grande City CISD Police Department located the cloned school truck at a residence in Rio Grande City after it had been seen leaving Fort Ringgold. The school district employee driving the official school district van was seen leaving the same location. That van returned to Fort Ringgold and the driver was seen fleeing on foot. This caused the lockdown of the two elementary schools," continued Chief Castillo. "Investigators conducted a search of the area but were not able to locate the subject. Back at the residence, two other subjects fled in a maroon, new model GMC Yukon and collided with a HIDTA Agent’s undercover vehicle. The Yukon continued on while being pursued by SCU investigators. A third vehicle crashed into the Yukon after it disregarded the stop sign at Canales Street and San Antonio Street. The impact of that crash caused the Yukon to collide with a city brush truck. SCU investigators apprehended the passenger while the driver fled on foot. The driver of the third vehicle was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The passenger in the Yukon was taken to the hospital by investigators but he later refused medical treatment."

"The driver of the Yukon turned himself in a short time later. He was identified as Emanuel Pena. The passenger was identified as Juan Enrique Medrano Jr. The school employee was identified as Mario Lopez. He turned himself in this afternoon to SCU investigators. Immediate emergency assistance was provided by responding units from Rio Grande City Police and the Starr County Sheriff," added Chief Castillo. "This investigation is ongoing as we gather more information and statements to determine anyone else’s involvement in this drug smuggling scheme."


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