The Coast Guard Cutter Marlin sailed into St. Petersburg Harbor under a heavy fog today with a cargo of cocaine and the three smugglers who tried to sneak it through Caribbean waters Saturday.
"They probably didn't have any idea they were being brought into St. Pete or land until we were pretty much pier-side," said the cutter's Commanding Officer Raynor Buckley.
Buckley said a maritime patrol aircraft initially spotted the smugglers in a "go-fast" boat Saturday and notified the Coast Guard.
The cutter Forward deployed a pursuit boat while the cutter Confidence launched a helicopter with a sharpshooter who disabled the smugglers' vessel with a 50 caliber rifle.
"The specialized helicopter crew was able to disable the boat by shooting out its engines," said Buckley.
Buckley said the pursuit crew took three smugglers into custody and seized 815 pounds of uncut cocaine worth an estimated $11 million.
The prisoners and the drugs ended up on the Marlin for transport to St. Petersburg where DEA agents took custody of the men and the cocaine.
Buckley said after initially trying to flee during the brief chase in the western Caribbean, the three smugglers offered no resistance.
"It's pretty rare when a go-fast or drug traffickers will fire back against the Coast Guard," Buckley said.
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