Aerial chase ends at Llano airport

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

An overnight aerial chase over several Highland Lakes counties ended Monday, March 20, with an airplane forced down at the Llano Municipal Airport and an Austin man arrested with 15 duffel bags of marijuana.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District, said federal authorities filed a criminal complaint Monday afternoon in Austin against 64–year-old Wayne Douglas Brunet for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

State authorities arrested Brunet at the Llano airport after discovering approximately 230 pounds of hydroponic marijuana on board his aircraft, announced U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, San Antonio Division.

“Horseshoe Bay was providing information and intel,” said Chief Rocky Wardlow of the Horseshoe Bay Police Department. “A Texas DPS surveillance plane and DPS Helo were on him. He flew over our airport and we were waiting but he went on to Llano.”

Scanner chatter said the airplane was flying low to avoid radar and in the complaint filed with the U.S. Magistrate Judge, HSI Special Agent Andrew H. Gonzalez said pursuit was begun after the single-engine aircraft was observed with a “suspicious flight pattern.”

The affidavit attached to the criminal complaint alleges that HSI agents were prepared to interdict Brunet Sunday night as he attempted to land at an unmanned airport in Bulverde. The Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operation Center (AMOC) began tracking the single- engine plane after observing that it had a suspicious flight pattern from Medford, Oregon, to Texas and had landed only once in Holbrook, Arizona, to refuel.

The affidavit further states that Brunet landed at the unmanned airport in Bulverde, but departed again after spotting authorities on the ground. Brunet then proceeded to the Lago Vista airport, but again, aborted his landing as he did in Bulverde when encountered by law enforcement. Brunet finally landed at the Llano Municipal Airport at about midnight. After bringing the aircraft to a stop, Brunet attempted to flee on foot, but was apprehended on the tarmac by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Air Unit.

Gonzalez's complaint said Brunet was observed to toss his cell phone and a duffel bag near the runway as he fled. Authorities recovered a total of 15 duffle bags filled with vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana along with approximately $6,000 in U.S. Currency.

Upon conviction, Brunet faces between five and 40 years in federal prison. He remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on Thursday in Austin before United States Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin. A criminal complaint is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, is the reminder made by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The investigation is being conducted by HSI together with assistance from CBP AMOC, DPS Air Unit and the Llano County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Devlin is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Government. A DPS spokesperson said the U.S. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also is involved in the case.

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