DEA Agents Face Greater Dangers in Recent Years

Times Staff Writer

Working as a federal narcotics agent has always been dangerous, but never more so as in recent years, DEA officials said Friday.

In the last 14 months alone, three other Drug Enforcement Administration agents have been killed in the line of duty elsewhere in the United States--two by gunshots, one in an accident when his car collided with a truck outside an Arizona border town.

Moreover, according to DEA statistics, 160 agents have been assaulted in the last three years, compared to a total of 50 assaults in 1983 and 1984.

“It’s getting a lot more violent than it used to be,” said Cornelius Dougherty, a DEA spokesman at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “We have had situations where one agent was killed and another wounded, but to my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened.”


Local DEA officials could not recall any Los Angeles-based agent ever having been killed.

The DEA employs about 2,900 agents, about 300 of whom are based in 44 other countries, Dougherty said.

Since 1920, when federal narcotics efforts were a function of the Internal Revenue Service, 31 drug agents have been killed in the line of duty, not including those shot Friday.

Before Friday, the last DEA member to die was Arthur L. Cash, 39, special agent in charge of the DEA’s office in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Cash’s car was hit head-on by a truck in August, 1987, as he transported three prisoners from Bisbee to Tucson.

Cash’s prisoners, suspects in a heroin smuggling case, were not injured. Sheriff’s deputies later ruled Cash’s death an accident.

On Jan. 20, 1987, DEA Special Agent Raymond Stastny was mortally wounded while working on a cocaine investigation at a shopping center outside Atlanta, Ga. Stastny, 30, died six days later.

Three weeks before that, on New Year’s Eve, 1986, Special Agent William Ramos, 30, was slain while trying to arrest a narcotics suspect three miles north of the Mexican border near Pharr, Tex.

Two Mexican nationals living in south Texas were later arrested and charged with murdering a federal agent as well as possession of intent to distribute 303 pounds of marijuana.


Perhaps the most notorious killing of a DEA agent occurred in February, 1985, when Enrique S. Camarena was kidnaped outside the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara. Two hours later, a pilot who had flown missions for Camarena to locate marijuana fields was abducted at the Guadalajara airport. Nearly a month later, their bodies, showing evidence of extreme torture, were found in Zamora, Mexico.

A Mexican federal judicial police commander, a major drug trafficker and his cousin were later indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.