WND reporter Jon Dougherty contributed to this story from Hebbronville, Texas

Two volunteers helping a southern Texas rancher protect his property from a wave of illegal immigrants were arrested by Texas Rangers yesterday on an accusation brought by a couple apparently from El Salvador.

Casey Nethercott and Hank Conner, members of the citizens’ group Ranch Rescue, are in the Jim Hogg County jail in Hebbronville, Texas, for allegedly pistol-whipping two illegal aliens they helped detain in the early morning hours, just after midnight, yesterday.

But witnesses who spoke with WorldNetDaily insist the aggravated-assault charges are false, and the man and woman were treated only with care.

Ranch Rescue spokesman Jack Foote sees irony in the arrest of people who believe they are making up for law enforcement’s perceived inability to protect the nation’s borders and private property.

“This is a massive travesty of justice,” said Foote, who was at the scene. “These two [foreign] trespassers were treated with the utmost of kindness and respect.”

Nethercott and Conner were arrested later in the day when they came into Hebbronville for lunch. They are being held by Sheriff Erasmo Alarcon Jr., of Jim Hogg County, who, as WND reported, issued a security warning last week, alerting citizens to numerous reports of unknown paramilitary troops.

Foote told WND he was with a team at the ranch of Joe Sutton, south of Hebbronville, when “we were surrounded by hundreds of criminal trespassers pouring over the fence and running to hide in grass.”

The rough, grassy land, infested with rattlesnakes, made finding the intruders difficult, he said, and it took an hour and a half before they found just two – the couple who made the accusation. They claimed to be Mexican nationals but were carrying papers from El Salvador, said Foote.

“They were treated with kid gloves,” Foote said, noting that pictures were taken of the couple wrapped in a blanket they were given. “We transported them in a van, rather than having them walk across snake-infested property.”

A French freelance photographer who was at the scene, on assignment, corroborated Foote’s version of events.

Eric Boye, who is working with the Gamma News Service, said he was very surprised at the charges, noting the man was smiling to his wife after Sutton gave the couple food and water, along with the blanket.

“They were treated with humanity,” said Boye, who took photos of the event.

Foote said the U.S. Border Patrol, which has a checkpoint seven miles away, was called to come pick up the couple, but he and his colleagues let them go after waiting half an hour for the agents to come. Later, according to Sutton, the couple eventually was picked up by the Border Patrol and “began to fabricate this story that they had been pistol whipped.”

Sutton and his wife have been living in fear for their lives for the last two years, Foote said, with a regular flow of illegal traffic, including drug smugglers. But he says the response from law enforcement officials has been “flaccid.”

“Lots of talk, little action,” he said.

Sheriff Alarcon, he said, “has been completely unresponsive.”

Alarcon had left his office for the day when WND tried to reach him.

Texas Ranger Sgt. Doyle Holdridge, who serves under the state’s Department of Public Safety, told WND Nethercott and Conner are being held on aggravated assault charges. Authorities have 72 hours from the time of arrest to arraign them before a judge.

Holdridge said the illegal alien couple picked out photographs of the two men from a police lineup.

Foote said that in Ranch Rescue’s two and a half years of operations, no member has been accused of criminal activity.

“We’ve never had a complaint,” he said.

Foote also commented on Alarcon’s warning about reports of paramilitary troopers.

“I think it is very credible,” he said. “We have reports of such sightings in every border state, particularly in Arizona.”

Foote believes it is “highly likely” they are foreigners, but said he is amazed sightings have been reported in Jim Hogg County, which is about 20 or 30 miles from the border.

Related story:

Texas sheriff warns of unidentified troops

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