The body of slain U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent James "Terry" Watson was returned to his Louisiana home Monday following his stabbing last week in Colombia during an aborted robbery attempt.
The agent's remains arrived at the Monroe Regional Airport on Monday afternoon, followed by a funeral procession to Rayville, La., where a public memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday at Rayville High School. The procession was escorted by Louisiana State Police honor guards along with Wildlife and Fisheries honor guards.
Mr. Watson, 43, a 13-year DEA veteran who served the agency in Colombia, Honolulu and San Juan, Puerto Rico, along with three deployments to Afghanistan conducting counternarcotics missions, will be buried Wednesday.
U.S. and Colombian law enforcement authorities said the agent was fatally stabbed — suffering four wounds — after he left a meeting with friends at a Bogota restaurant and got into a taxi. Mr. Watson reportedly was heading home after watching the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in an upscale restaurant.
Col. Camilo Cabana of Colombia's National Police said the taxi Mt. Watson was riding in was intercepted by another cab about three blocks from the restaurant. Two men got out and tried to pull the American agent out of the vehicle, stabbing him three times in the chest and once in the leg, Mr. Cabana said.
He said the assailants then abandoned the agent in the street, where he was found shortly afterward by a police patrol. Mr. Watson was taken to a clinic several blocks away, but was pronounced dead.
Authorities said Mr. Watson likely had been targeted for a "paseo millonario," or a "millionaire's ride," where victims are forced to use their ATM cards to empty their bank accounts. A special unit had been formed to investigate the case and the officers were reviewing area security cameras in hopes of identifying the assailants. The police department has offered a reward of $25,800 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
Gen. Jose Roberto Leon Riano, director of Colombia's National Police, said Mr. Watson had worked in the country for about a year and a half.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said his country had made great strides in attempting to reduce its murder rate, but the attack on the U.S. agent can "erase in a single sweep all the work we've done to reduce homicides." He asked police to do all they can to find the killers.
The Watson family, in a statement, said the agent is survived by his wife, Linda; his parents, Paul and Henrietta Watson of Holly Ridge, La.; and a brother, Paul "Scott" Watson.
"Terry dedicated his life to serving the public and making the world a safer and better place. Terry never wasted a minute of his life and never took it for granted," the statement said. "We are sad that he is gone but are incredibly proud of his service and the type of person he was. We will always love him dearly."
The DEA said that at the time of his death, Mr. Watson was assigned to the agency's field office in Cartagena and was on temporary duty in Bogota.
"We are all saddened by this devastating loss of a member of the DEA family," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Terry was a brave and talented DEA special agent who served our agency for 13 years. These are the worst days for anyone in law enforcement and we grieve Terry's loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry's wife and family, and we will forever carry his memory in our hearts."
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