Justice Department officials today offered $1 million for the capture of the five Mexican "border bandits" who killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with an ATF-sourced weapon in the mountains south of Tucson.
Agent Terry's death has been at the center of the Congressional investigation into a botched ATF gun-smuggling investigation dubbed "Fast and Furious." Two weapons linked to the shooting of Agent Terry made it into criminal hands as a result of that operation, which sought to track smuggled guns to drug cartel kingpins. A dispute between Congressional investigators and the Justice Department over "Fast and Furious" documents led to Attorney General Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress last month.
But despite all the controversy, the details of how Agent Terry was killed have never been revealed until today.
At a news conference in Tucson, Justice Department officials said that on December 14, 2010, Agent Terry and his Border Patrol team were trying to intercept five men who had crossed into the U.S. from Mexico and tripped electronic sensors planted in the southern Arizona desert. The federal agents confronted the men, opening fire with beanbags, not bullets.
It turned out the men were "border bandits," armed gangsters who rob drug smugglers. The bandits returned fire, and in the firefight, Agent Terry was killed. One of the bandits was shot in the foot, and taken into custody, but four other suspects escaped while agents were tending to Agent Terry.
Today, an indictment charging five individuals involved in the death of Agent Terry was unsealed in Tucson, and a reward of up to $1 million from the FBI for information leading to the arrest of four fugitives was announced by Department of Justice officials.
According to the indictment, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with crimes including first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.
In addition to the murder of Agent Terry, the indictment also alleges that the five defendants assaulted Border Patrol agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were with Agent Terry during the firefight.
"Brian Terry was truly an agent's agent," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy said at the press conference today. Duffy promised Terry's family "the very best" her office had to offer. "We will not rest until these individuals are brought to justice."
"Agent Terry served his country honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect it from harm, and we will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his murder to justice," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. "This investigation has previously resulted in one defendant being charged with Agent Terry's murder and taken into custody, and today's announcement reflects the department's unrelenting commitment to finding and arresting the other individuals responsible for this horrific tragedy so that Agent Terry's family, friends and fellow law enforcement agents receive the justice they deserve."
"U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry made the ultimate sacrifice in December of 2010, while protecting our border," stated James L. Turgal Jr., FBI Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division. "Today's announcement is an important step forward in the pursuit of justice for Border Patrol Agent Terry and his family. It is our hope that the publicity surrounding this case will lead to information concerning the whereabouts of the remaining four fugitives."
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since his arrest the night of the shooting. Rito Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since Dec. 12, 2010, when he was arrested by Border Patrol agents on immigration charges. The indictment is being unsealed today in order to seek the public's assistance in locating the four fugitive defendants.
This case is being prosecuted in federal court in Tucson by attorneys from the Southern District of California, Special Attorneys Todd W. Robinson, David D. Leshner, and Fred A. Sheppard. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona is recused, because of its involvement in the "Fast and Furious" operation.