In case you're wondering what 350 Arizona police officers were up to today, they were learning how to deal with any voodoo, witchcraft, or demonic possession that Mexican drug cartels might try to cast on law enforcement.
According to the East Valley Tribune, Robert Almonte, the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas, was invited to lead a training class at the Mesa Public Safety Center today to explain how to recognize and interpret the religious underpinnings of Mexican cartels.
Almonte, the former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department, is apparently an expert on the subject based on what he told the Tribune:
"In the mid 1980s, when Robert Almonte was a narcotics detective for the El Paso Police Department, he executed a search warrant at the home of a street-level heroin dealer and discovered the woman had placed the names of Almonte and his partner on voodoo dolls.
The woman, a Mexican national, was a 'bruja' (witch), and said she put a hex on Almonte and his partner, using her spiritual beliefs in an effort to protect herself from law enforcement. Almonte said the hex didn't work and he arrested her.
'That's when the problem hit home,' Almonte said. 'It's been increasing ever since.'"
So the next time the cops find a drug dealer who's speaking in tongues and can spin their head around 360 degrees like that girl in The Exorcist, they'll apparently know what's up.
"They use prayer, icons or candles as a tool to facilitate criminal activity such as for drugs, human smuggling and weapons," Almonte tells the Tribune. "Officers frequently run into these icons and items of their spiritual underworld and they don't know what they're dealing with. We want to make officers aware of these indicators of criminal activity so they can know what to look for that also can lead to other avenues in an investigation."
The Tribune notes that as recently as last month, Mexican drug cartel violence was found in the Valley when a 38-year-old illegal immigrant was found beheaded in his Chandler apartment after stealing 400 pounds of marijuana from a drug cartel.
Candles and a Ouija board were reportedly found at the scene, which -- along with the beheading -- Almonte says is "just another day at the office."
It appears to just be a one-day training event, but here at New Times we're hoping that they'll continue their training with a trip to the Harry Potter theme park in Florida.