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DEA Agent and Person Carrying Over 5 Pounds of Weed Were Shot and Killed on Amtrak Train
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Be careful traveling via Amtrak if you plan to carry five pounds of weed and edibles on you.
Published on October 6, 2021

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Five pounds of marijuana and 50 edible packages may have been the reason a seasoned DEA agent and an unidentified suspect lost their lives on Monday. The violence kicked off around 8 am during a money, weapons, and drugs check by DEA officers of a cross-country Amtrak train at a morning stop in Tucson, Arizona. 

“It’s really horrific, and we’re all just coming to terms with just how terrible a loss this is,” said Chief Chris Magnus of the Tucson police at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Although drug checks are common at downtown Tucson train stations, US News reports that Amtrak tipped off the DEA and city police officers in this particular instance. That information came courtesy of a federal criminal complaint made public on Tuesday.

Indeed, serious trouble awaited law enforcement on the train. 

The incident kicked off when Devonte Okeith Mathis allegedly tried to distance himself from a backpack and two bags he was traveling with on the upper deck of a double decker Sunset Limited train. His plans started going south when a drug dog discovered two considerable packages of cannabis in the suspect’s luggage. 

A man who was sitting in the same row as Mathis exited the train with officers, returning to the train after the OK to use the dogs was given, but before the drugs’ discovery.

When officers re-entered the train to find the second man, they were met with gunshots, and two DEA agents were hit, killing one and leaving the other in critical condition. 

Backup soon arrived, and in the ensuing shoot-out, the man who initially opened fire was killed. He made it as far as the train’s bathroom before expiring. A Tucson police officer was also hit, but is in stable condition as of Monday afternoon. 

In late August, Amtrak police shot and killed a murder suspect at Chicago’s Union Station platform. 

A camera set up on the exterior of Tucson’s Southern Arizona Transportation Museum by the website Virtual Railman — meant to record train porn for locomotive fans — captured the exterior of the train when Monday’s deadly shoot-out occurred. An officer with a dog enters the train then exits hastily, hiding on the train platform. A shooter pops out of the train car, fires off some shots at the fleeing officer and canine, and re-enters the train.

The officer who was killed in Tucson is Michael G. Garbo, who’s been an agent since 2005. His higher-ups at the DEA say he exhibited experience and a manner that counted as “legendary.” Garbo worked at detaining drug traffickers at the US-Mexican border and Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Luckily, none of the 137 passengers and 11 crew members who were on the train at the time were injured. 

The drugs over which this blood was shed? 5.3 pounds of marijuana, 50 packages of 3.5-gram marijuana edibles, and other cannabis products. May the senseless violence of drug prohibition end so no one has to endure the trauma of avoidable situations like this in the future.

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Caitlin Donohue
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Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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