Drug War Shoot-Out in Tucson: DEA Targets Cannabis Smugglers on Train

Devonte Mathis’ mug shot and the Amtrak where the shooting took place in Tucson on October 4 (photo via AP).

It turns out the deadly shooting on Amtrak in Tucson on October 4 was the result of an attempted marijuana bust.

The Sunset Limited train from Los Angeles to New Orleans arrived in Tucson at about 8 am. Three members of southern Arizona's regional Counter Narcotics Alliances entered the train - two DEA agents and one Tucson police officer. “They were checking for illegal guns, money, drugs,” Tucson police chief Chris Magnus said after the shooiting. “This is something they do routinely at pretty much all transit hubs.”

One of the agents spotted passenger Devonte Mathis moving bags around in the storage compartments. Mathis was traveling with another man only identifiied as  "D.T." The bags were searched and marijuana was found inside. When the police returned to the upper deck of the train with a K-9, shots were fired. In the exchange, D.T. and DEA agent Michael Garbo were killed. One of the Tucson officers was also shot.

"These were no kingpins, just some legacy sellers looking to make a score."

So what exactly did they find in the bags? "Five pounds of 'bulk marijuana,' 50 packages of marijuana edibles (3.5-gram servings of 'Gooberz') and other cannabis products, according to a federal criminal complaint," reports the New York Times.

That's really not a lot of pot. Five pounds have a street value of about $12,000. These were no kingpins, just some legacy sellers looking to make a score. Arizona is a legal state, but the Feds can still step in. Arizona's new adult-use law, which passed in November, allows for the possession of one ounce.

This was not Mathis' first encounter with the law. The 22-year-old resident of Mesquite, Texas has a couple of prior arrests for marijuana cultivation in 2018 and aggravated assault involving a deadly weapon in 2020. Currently in federal detention, Mathis will need a good lawyer to beat this latest charge: possessing with the intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of a mixture or substance containing marijuana. However, he's not charged with shooting the officers. D.T. apparently was the shooter.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.