DOUGLAS, Ariz. — Drug smugglers employ very creative methods to get their loads across the U.S.-Mexico border.
But it’s not every day they use a van outfitted with a 10-foot (3-meter) air cannon to shoot projectiles into the United States.
Mexican federal police said in a statement last week they found such van parked on a street in Agua Prieta, Mexico, along the border with Douglas, Arizona.
It was reported stolen from the city of Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora over the summer.
Images provided by the Mexican police show the black van with hole cut in its roof with a cannon in the back of the van that could fire projectiles. Authorities also said they found an air compressor apparently used to launch packages.
U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Vicente Paco said Tuesday that agents regularly see numerous methods used by smugglers to send contraband over the border fence.
The most common is lobbying softball-sized marijuana packages over the fence and into the U.S., often in residential backyards, Paco said in statement. Smugglers pay someone on the U.S. side to retrieve the packages, which are then distributed around the country.
Paco said high-pressure air cannons can launch heavier marijuana packages weighing 60 pounds. The Border Patrol has also seen the use of trebuchets, a catapult-type launcher that can be crafted from wood.
Smugglers have even used heavy equipment and ladders to hoist trucks loaded with marijuana over the border fence, which in parts of Arizona can go as high as 26 feet (7.9 meters).
Video captured in March by a Mexican news station showed two young men who were carrying large loads of what appeared to be marijuana scaling a border fence from Nogales, Mexico, into Nogales, Arizona.
Locals call these types of smugglers “Mexican spidermen” for their ability to rapidly climb and rappel down the fence.
Paco says the use of cannons and other major devices is rare and that authorities spot them only once every couple of years.