- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mexican law-enforcement authorities arrested a man in the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent who died Saturday when drug- and alien-smuggling suspects ran him down as he tried to lay spike strips on a road about a mile north of the Mexico border.

Mexican federal and state police said Jesus Navarro Montes, 22, was taken into custody in the northern state of Sonora in the killing of Agent Luis Aguilar Jr., 32, who was struck and killed at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

According to a joint statement yesterday by Mexico’s federal Attorney General’s Office and Public Safety Department, Mr. Navarro left Mexicali in Baja California on Saturday, headed for the U.S. in a Hummer carrying drugs, and that after running down the agent, he drove to Mexicali and gave the Hummer to accomplices for safekeeping.

It said Mr. Navarro had previously been detained and jailed for smuggling 10 illegal aliens into the U.S., adding that there also was a warrant for his arrest in Mexicali on alien-trafficking counts.

Last night, Mexican federal authorities in Baja California told reporters that information from the Navarro arrest had led them to three Mexicali homes where they found materials for making fake U.S. immigration papers — blank documents, border-crossing cards, temporary visas, and stamping machines to produce U.S. government seals.

Agent Aguilar, a six-year Border Patrol veteran assigned at the agency’s Yuma, Ariz., sector office, was killed when struck by the driver of a Hummer fleeing other Border Patrol agents near the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, about 20 miles west of the state’s border with Arizona. More arrests are expected in the case, because two trucks were involved in the deadly chase.

In a statement to Border Patrol agents issued before Mexico announced the arrest, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham and Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar called the breaking investigation “encouraging news” and said they “are optimistic that progress is being made toward the eventual prosecution and conviction of those individuals connected to this heinous act.”

“In the face of increasing acts of violence against our officers and agents, CBP’s resolve in securing America’s borders is unwavering,” they said. “We continue to mourn the loss of Agent Aguilar and will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice.”

Mr. Basham and Chief Aguilar said they appreciated the “dedication shown” by local, state, federal and international law-enforcement partners in bringing those responsible to justice, and particularly commended the “rapid response” of the Mexican government, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Justice Department.

Border Patrol officials said Agent Aguilar was struck as other agents were trying to stop the fleeing Hummer and a Ford F-250 pickup that crossed from Mexico into the U.S. He was declared dead at the scene.

Mexican authorities in Baja California recovered the burned remains of a Hummer and Ford pickup Sunday afternoon. Identification numbers showed both trucks had been stolen in California.

Agent Aguilar’s death, the first for the Border Patrol in 2008, comes at a time when assaults on border agents continue to rise — from 384 in 2005 to 987 in 2007. In the first quarter of fiscal 2008, which began Oct. 1, there were about 300 assaults on Border Patrol agents, on a pace to reach 1,200 by the end of the year.

The rise is attributed by CBP to a greater law-enforcement presence, criminal resistance to tightening operational control along the Southwest border and turf battles between rival drug- and alien-smuggling gangs.

“Dangerous criminal groups have chosen to respond to our tougher security posture at the border with increased violence,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “They mistakenly believe we will give way in the face of violence. We will continue to show them how wrong they are.”

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