First, came a tip. Then, not so carefully, investigators say, an Amtrak passenger placed three bags in the second row and returned to his seat as drug enforcement agents boarded a crowded train during a stop in Tucson, Ariz., on Monday morning. .
According to a federal criminal complaint, a search of those bags on a train platform produced more than five pounds of “bulk marijuana,” 50 packages of marijuana edibles (3.5-gram servings of “goobers”) and other cannabis products.
That was when a “routine” sweep by a Drug Enforcement Task Force turned fatal: a federal agent was killed, another was seriously injured and a Tucson police officer was hospitalized in stable condition. , when a second suspect opened fire on his way back to the train. On them.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in US District Court in Arizona, revealed new details about the sequence of events that led to the shooting, including the name of a man, Devonte Oketh Mathis, with intent to distribute marijuana. was accused of. .
The complaint states that the gunman, in turn along with members of the task force, was shot and killed, leaving him unidentified. Officials said they were seated across the aisle from Mr Mathis and the two men were traveling from California to Texas.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Mathis, 22, of Mesquite, Texas, had an attorney – none were listed in court records. He was to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Tucson.
In Texas, Mr Mathis was previously charged with possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance in 2018, according to court records that showed his case was pending. The December 2020 sentence for a felony assault involving a deadly weapon is also listed in the public record. The outcome of that case was not immediately clear.
Even though up to one ounce of marijuana is legal for people 21 and over for recreational use in Arizona under a law passed last November, possession of any amount of marijuana is a federal crime. Trafficking remains illegal at the federal level and in Arizona, where there has been tension over marijuana possession laws.
Valena Beatty, a professor of law at Arizona State University and deputy director of the Academy for Justice, said in an interview Wednesday that the disconnect between state and federal law had caused confusion.
“You’re in a state where recreational marijuana has been legalized, and yet the DEA still has, you know, federal officials who can arrest you for violating federal law,” Professor Beatty he said. “It has been a strain for years. Such tragedies arise out of this illusion.”
But Professor Beatty pointed out that there is no ambiguity in the law regarding the amount of marijuana confiscated and the charges for smuggling.
On Tuesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration identified the slain agent as Michael G. As Garbo, a group supervisor who worked for the agency for more than 16 years combating criminal drug traffickers from the southwestern United States to Kabul, Afghanistan. Officials did not release the names of the other injured officers or details of their conditions.
Federal agents said in the criminal complaint that they were investigating a tip they had received from Amtrak when they encountered two people on a train. The complaint did not elaborate on the nature of the tip.
The complaint states that when an agent asked Mr Mathis if the bags belonged to him, he denied it and raised further doubts. Inside a blue bag, the agent found two bulk packages of marijuana, according to investigators, who said the gunman returned to the train as police dogs smelled the bag. When agents began to approach the gunman on the upper deck of the double-decker train, he opened fire.
The shootout prompted the evacuation of Sunset Limited Train 2, which had 137 passengers and 11 crew members on board at the time of the shooting. An Amtrak spokesperson said everyone on the train, which was traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans, was evacuated.
Vimal Patel Contributed to reporting.