Babeu's office defends holiday travel warning to public

Sheriff Babeu is warning of cartel assasins

PHOENIX - Not less than 24 hours after a news conference in which Pinal County Sheriff Babeu warned holiday travelers of Mexican cartel "assassins" in the southern Arizona wilderness, Babeu sent out an email to potential campaign donors. The letter referenced his warning, blamed the Obama administration for illegal immigration and solicited donations for his campaign.

Babeu was traveling Tuesday and not available for an interview.

On Monday, when Babeu was asked by one reporter whether his warning to the traveling public related to his congressional campaign, the sheriff was straightforward.

"It has everything to do with that as well," he said. "I'm an elected official. It's not something new that I've been talking about this for eight years. This is vitally important that we have to safeguard our families."

On Tuesday, PCSO spokesman Tim Gaffney provided a statement to 12 News. It said, in part: "The information which was put out yesterday by Sheriff Babeu came directly from the Sergeant of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Unit.  He received the information directly from members of the U.S. Border Patrol West Desert Task Force.  They relayed the intelligence to our office for the safety of our members who work this known drug smuggling corridor with them."

National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told 12 News on Tuesday the violence at the border has continued to escalate over recent years.

"The drug cartels are protecting their loads even more," Judd said. "I've spoken with several agents from the Casa Grande station today. There's nothing that says 'hey you have to watch out on a particular weekend,' but they are being warned by their supervisors on a much more consistent basis that the violence is escalating."

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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