Arizona deputy seriously injured while working to stop human smuggling suspect

Oct 2, 2023, 10:24 AM | Updated: Oct 4, 2023, 6:23 am

Mugshot of Amber Bernadette Fuaga of Maricopa, Arizona. She was arrested for alleged human smugglin...

Amber Bernadette Fuaga of Maricopa, Arizona, was arrested for alleged human smuggling after an incident where a Cochise County Sheriff’s Office deputy was seriously injured on Sept. 28, 2023. (Cochise County Sheriff's Office Photos)

(Cochise County Sheriff's Office Photos)

PHOENIX – The southern Arizona deputy who fell off a bridge last week during the pursuit of a human smuggling suspect faces “significant challenges” to his recovery, authorities said.

Christopher Oletski, 43, was seriously injured Thursday night while working for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Interdiction Team.

“The family has … provided a medical update indicating complications have arisen in Chris’ care resulting in significant challenges moving forward with his medical pathway,” Sheriff Mark Dannels said Sunday night on social media.

“We would ask for your positive thoughts and prayers for Chris’ recovery and blessings to his family, loved ones and friends as they navigate through these dark times.”

Dannels said the family has requested privacy at this time. A GoFundMe account has been established to support family members as they stay with Oletski in a Tucson hospital.

How was Cochise County Deputy Christopher Oletski injured?

Dannels told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Friday that the deputy broke multiple bones after falling 15 feet onto his back and underwent four hours of surgery.

Oletski is a retired Marine who has been with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office for three years.

“He works in interdiction for the sheriff’s office to prevent drug smuggling, human smuggling and human trafficking,” Dannels said.

He said another agency was trying to locate a suspect Thursday night when a deputy spotted the suspect’s vehicle.

Oletski deployed a spike strip in the car’s path on State Route 80 near the SR 90 junction, about 8 miles northwest of Bisbee. The device successfully deflated three of the vehicle’s tires, Dannels said.

“He pulled back the spikes off the road so the rest of the patrol units could go through,” Dannels said. “As he did that, he lost his footing, went over the guardrail and fell 15 feet on his back.”

Oletski was airlifted to a Tucson medical center.

What happened to southern Arizona human smuggling suspect?

The suspect, 47-year-old Amber Bernadette Fuaga of Maricopa, was arrested and booked into jail on counts of human smuggling and driving under the influence, with additional charges pending.

The Border Patrol responded to search for other occupants in the vehicle, who fled the scene.

Dannels said law enforcement and the public are being put in harm’s way too often because of increased human smuggling activity by cartels.

He said his agency has booked more than 2,400 people on border-related crimes, ranging from murder to trespassing, over the last year-and-a-half.

“This is the ugliest I’ve seen it, and every day it gets a little worse,” he said.

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Arizona deputy seriously injured while working to stop human smuggling suspect