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Operation Sand Storm Blinds Fugitives

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POSTED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 4:26pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 7:51pm

EL PASO - Hundreds of fugitives are off local streets because of an unprecedented raid.

Operation Sand Storm was led by the U.S. Marshal's Office and targeted criminals on the loose in the Borderland.

More than a dozen agencies took part in the raid including the FBI and DEA.

Results of the raid show a little more than half of the 400 fugitives are now under arrest.

On Monday, law enforcers invited us to film one of their fugitive teams in action.

Here's what NewsChannel 9's Matt Rivers reports:

The hardened, penetrating stare of a criminal, a fugitive from the law, now in custody facing years in prison.

Hours before the arrest, a groggy group of heavily armed men gear up.

It is before dawn on Monday but as we roll out just after 5 a.m., adrenaline starts focusing bleary eyes.  Our first stop; the east side where a man accused of renigging on child support for a long time is now going to jail.

As the sun rises, you start to see just who we are dealing with.  A sampler set of just about every agency in town - the DEA, ICE, Sheriff's Department, El Paso Police Department, all part of a fugitive task force led by U.S. Marshals.

A rude awarening for the next guy we picked up.  Marshals busted in while he was in the bathroom. They say early morning raids are essential.  It might make for harsh wake-up calls, but the felon is more likely to be home. Two for two so far.  We regroup in a parking lot to talk about the next guy.  He has been on the run for a while and U.S. Marshals wants him badly.

The group approaches with caution. Miguel Betancourt is charged with assault with a deadly weapon and family violence.  His mother answers the door and says he is not home. Unconvinced, marshals go in and find a locked door. We could not follow them in but a wireless microphone picks up the action.

"Open that door. Kick it? Yeah go in, go in....BOOM!"

"Let me see your f------ hands! Put them up, show him your hands, put your hands up, put your hands up. Get up, put them behind you, watch your taser, watch your taser, get the f--- out of there, watch yourself, watch yourself. Cuff him up, cuff him up, I said open the door man, let's go."

Marshals tell us afterwards that Betancourt was hiding in a closet and put up a fight before giving up. It is a bust everyone in the group is excited about.

We ride around with the group for a few more hours.

Following up lead after lead, we don't catch anyone else, as people blatantly lie to cover up for others.

Marshals tell us that is par for the course. More fugitives get away than are caught.  It is part of a law enforcer's job. The reward is in catching long-time criminals.

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