Colombian law enforcement authorities have arrested four men in the killing of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent James “Terry” Watson,” who was fatally stabbed last week during what police said was an aborted robbery attempt. More arrests are expected.
Mr. Watson, 43, a 13-year DEA veteran, was killed after he caught a taxi outside a restaurant in Bogota’s exclusive Parque de la 93 area late Thursday. Authorities said two men entered the taxi as part of a robbery in which the taxi driver also participated.
Colombian Police Director General Jose Roberto Leon Riano said Tuesday the suspects sought to “erase the evidence to avoid being detected” by removing the seats of the taxi in which Mr. Watson was transported. He said they later tried to sell the seats, but the buyers turned out to be police investigators.
Mr. Leon also said a bracelet was found in the taxi, likely from another robbery, and a bloody pair of trousers thought to belong to the taxi driver was seized as evidence. He identified Edgar Javier Bello — a member of a gang that specializes in taxi robberies — as the man believed responsible for stabbing Mr. Watson, adding that an informant in the case will receive about $25,800 for information leading to the arrest.
Taxi robberies are common in Bogota. Victims are taken on what is known as a “paseo millonario,” or a “millionaire’s ride,” in which passengers are driven to a spot where a driver’s accomplices are waiting. The victims are then driven to cash machines where they are forced to withdraw money.
Surveillance cameras in the area of the attack reportedly show a second taxi pulling up behind Mr. Watson’s and two men exiting and entering the first. Within seconds, Mr. Watson can be seen escaping the taxi and running from it, where witnesses say he collapsed and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Watson’s body was returned to his Louisiana home Monday. 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 was set for Tuesday evening at Rayville High School, with burial to follow Wednesday morning. The procession was escorted by Louisiana State Police honor guards along with Wildlife and Fisheries honor guards.
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.”