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2016-07-28

Bullets fly during weed raid in Lakehills

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Since federal law enforcement agencies are notoriously tight-lipped about their clandestine operations, details about a recent one in Bandera County were predictably sketchy. However, due to the number of phone calls and drop-ins to the Bandera County Courier, it soon became apparent that something had gone down in Lakehills during the early morning hours of Thursday, July 21.
One person reported that at approximately 5:30 am, agents with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) had converged on addresses in Lakehills. “They were dressed in camo and SWAT attire and carried rifles and what appeared to be automatic weapons. They looked like they meant business,” offered the unidentified man.
The agents purportedly arrived in a number of black SUVs with tinted windows. The man also noted that uniformed law enforcement officers – along with their plainclothes compatriots – had remained on the scene throughout the day.
Later that morning, a group was observed eating at a local restaurant. When queried by a small boy, one man identified himself as a federal agent. A contingent was also observed “suiting up” at the EZ Mart on Park Road 37.
Some eyewitnesses to a portion of the operation opined, “It seemed to be some sort of training maneuver due to the magnitude of men and weapons involved.”
However, another negated that possibility, asking, “Why would they do a training exercise with arms in a residential neighborhood?”
A call to Bandera County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matt King revealed that the agents had been serving federal criminal warrants on two suspects. During the operation, one of the subjects had been shot. Texas Rangers, along with an obligatory contingent from the DEA, are investigating the incident.
“The operation was conducted without the knowledge of the sheriff’s office. We were informed about it after the fact,” King said. He added that Bandera County EMS had not been asked to transport the injured suspect. “No calls went out over our emergency dispatch,” he said. “I don’t know how the injured man got to the hospital.”
Later, DEA Public Information Officer Wendall Campbell of Houston offered some scant details. At the time of the incident, agents were apparently engaged in serving warrants related to drug trafficking by suspects currently living in the Lakehills area.
At one home, Luther Otis Foster IV emerged carrying a firearm and threatened to shoot agents. Agents responded in kind – multiple times, according to a report. The federal task force transported the wounded suspect via AirLife to University Hospital in San Antonio. He was later said to be in serious, but not life-threatening, condition.
A second suspect, Dustin Michael Junek, was arrested without incident at one of the two homes. According to reports, the raid occurred after a joint DEA-DPS investigation uncovered a large marijuana-production operation in homes off Florida Street and Cowboy Lane. The area is near 8th Street and Thousand Trails in Lakehills. The hydroponic operation included more than 100 marijuana plants at one home, and 22 plants at another, according to an affidavit.
Both Foster and Junek have been charged with conspiracy to manufacture more than 100 marijuana plants. If found guilty, they face a maximum of 40 years in federal prison.
Junek is being held pending a bail hearing this week. Federal prosecutors will ask a court to hold Foster without bond after he is released from the hospital.
According to Chief Deputy King, neither man has a criminal record in Bandera County. One resident surmised that was because both men were no doubt from San Antonio and used the Lakehills residences as base for their illegal activities. “That’s probably how the DEA knew about them,” he said. “Evidently they wanted that Foster guy badly.”
Bandera County is no stranger to “raids” by federal agencies. In June, a heavily armed contingent of United States Marshals stormed the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera on a licensing complaint.
The incident that culminated in “scared-the-bejesus-out-of” bar patrons began on May 5, 2012, when the bar offered a television broadcast of a World Boxing Association Light Middleweight Championship Fight Program, featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto.
Commercial establishments in Texas were required to obtain a sub-license from J&J Sports Productions, Inc. to broadcast the event. Apparently, bar owner James McGroarty failed to pay licensure fees assessed by J&J.
However, the raid in Lakehills seems to have residents more on edge than the one on 11th Street in Bandera.
As one noted, “A large scale drug operation was going on right under our noses. It was sickening and scary for our children.”
Another added, “I’ve been saying that this area – Lakehills, Bandera and Pipe Creek – needs to be cleaned up.”