TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – It was a case of mistaken identity that, authorities say, could have gone very wrong.
Authorities say, apparently, a group of heavily-armed border militia members mistook conservationists researching bats for illegal immigrants or smugglers.
It happened Aug. 23 in the Gardner Canyon area near Sonoita where the small group of conservationists was out in the middle of the night conducting a wildlife population survey, in this case, counting bats.
Nobody was hurt during the confrontation, but the incident has law enforcement taking notice.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada say the militiamen were on ATVs. They were carrying weapons and were wearing camouflage.
What could possibly go wrong?
Sheriff Estrada says Santa Cruz County does not welcome border militia groups.
“These people that are completely out of their environment. They really don’t know the area. They don’t know the terrain. They have little knowledge of the dynamics of the border. So it can be a real problem,” Estrada says. “We really don’t want them here.”
“It can be a problem for them. It can be a problem for the people, just like in this particular case. Things could have gone terribly wrong,” Estrada says. “They really don’t accomplish anything. They really don’t. With about 1,000 Border Patrol Agents here in Santa Cruz County, a little group of any militiamen are not going to make any difference at all. As a matter of fact, they’re going to get in the way and they could get hurt. Or they could hurt somebody else.”
It seems, before the militiamen realized what was going on, they had called Border Patrol agents who then traveled across the area, merely to encounter people studying bats.
It sounds like more that just the bats need to be counted.