Retiring DEA boss reflects on fight against ‘cold, calculating, evil’ cartel operatives

Border Report Tour

Kyle W. Williamson finds joy in training next generation of drug fighters, exults inter-agency cooperation in El Paso

The Rio Grande flows between the United States (L) and Mexico (R) on March 31, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: Second of two parts.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Kyle W. Williamson got into law enforcement 31 years ago because he wanted to get the bad guys off the streets.

“Some of the surveillances are awfully boring. You spend a lot of hours just watching and waiting. But it’s exciting to arrest someone you’ve been investigating for a long time, gather the evidence and present a case in court,” he said.

Now 55 and “riding a desk” inside his West Side office, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Division still finds the job exciting.

Kyle W. Williamson

“I live through what my agents do. To help them in cases and help them develop their careers has been one of my greatest joys,” he said, going on to quote Proverbs 27:17. “‘Iron sharpens Iron,’ one person builds up another.”

On Tuesday, Williamson announced his retirement and reflected on what it’s been like to fight narco-terrorists in Afghanistan and drug cartels on the border with Mexico.

The latter will present one of the toughest challenges in the career of whoever the federal agency sends to replace him.

While El Paso continuously ranks as one of the safest cities in America, the fight for illegal drug staging areas across the border in Juarez has claimed more than 4,000 lives in the past three years. Some murders are gruesome, with bodies turning up mutilated, decapitated, burned, or abandoned inside trash cans. Mass shootings are common, and the victims sometimes include women and children.

Nowadays, the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels as well as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel are cashing in on the opioid crisis that claimed more than 90,000 American lives last year by ramping up exports of fentanyl and heroin.

Williamson calls the men who carry out the massacres and export such poison to the U.S. pure “evil.”

“They are often glamorized in movies, but in reality, they are cold, they’re calculating, and they are evil,” he says. “But they’re always under the threat of being eliminated by a competitor organization, they’re always on the run from law enforcement. They’re not able to ever relax or trust anyone because anyone could be an informant.”

Some cartel members can be addicts looking to move up, but they’re seldom promoted to command-and-control positions. More often, they’re individuals willing to do anything and hurt anyone to gain money as well as to savor having power over others.

But a drug trafficker’s life eventually hits a dead end. “They actually live a life of seclusion, paranoia and they commit a lot of violent acts in order to further self-preservation,” Williamson said.

Television and movies often also glamorize drug agents. But Williamson said the DEA is always looking for young men and women to take up the fight against cartels, money launderers and narco-terrorists. What the agency looks for is educated, fit, and individuals with a working knowledge of the law willing to be true to themselves and their country.

“We look primarily for three things. One is a college education. Another is being physically fit. Also, it’s good to get a start with a local law enforcement agency. That’s what our recruiters tell college students and what I tell kids who reach out to me on LinkedIn for advice,” he said.

Williamson will retire to private life in El Paso. He says he has relatives here and likes this friendly, peaceful community where he will always have friends in law enforcement.

“It has been good working with federal, state and local law enforcement. We learn a lot from each other. El Paso should be proud of its law enforcement community and how well it works together to address the criminal threats that are out there,” he added.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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