SANDIA - Fourteen high-powered weapons were discovered during a routine traffic stop near Sandia on Highway 359.
Jim Wells County Sheriff Deputy Ramon Bueno conducted a routine traffic stop on a black Buick passenger car traveling south Friday evening. The driver, identified as Jodie Rocha, gave the deputy consent to search the vehicle. Passengers in the vehicle included Rocha's cousin, Epigmenio Palomo, Rocha's wife and a five-year-old child.
During the search, Deputy Bueno located the 14 high caliber weapons including a m-4, AK47, a .338 Lapua Magnum along with ammunition and magazines in the trunk of the vehicle. Several magazines were loaded.
According to sheriff officials, the case of one of the guns was sticking out of the trunk and into the back seat of the vehicle where the child was sitting.
On Saturday, agents with the JWC Sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives interviewed the suspects. They also worked on identifying weapons.
According to JWC Sheriff Daniel Bueno, they are unsure if the guns were going to Mexico, but the guns are set up to shot and kill.
"It's a frightening situation to know that these criminals have the high-powered weapons that law enforcement agencies don't," Sheriff Bueno stated. "Small law enforcement agencies do not have the equipment to defend themselves against (criminals) who do...Can you imagine conducting a traffic stop with these weapons in the vehicle? Great team work between officers."
Rocha and Paloma were immediately detained and the vehicle was impounded. Rocha's wife and the child were released.
The two suspects were taken into federal custody and charged with felon in possession of a firearm.
Rocha told the officer he had a small amount of marijuana.
Paloma had a parole warrant. Both men are convicted felons and one of them is a confirmed gang member, according to sheriff officials.