- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2009


MEXICO CITY | Mexican federal police say they have detained four men suspected of involvement in the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas.

Elias Alvarez Hernandez, the coordinator of federal police in Baja California state, says the men were purportedly part of an immigrant-smuggling ring. Twenty-one immigrants were found with them when the men were detained near Tecate on Saturday.

Mr. Hernandez says the suspects are two brothers and two taxi drivers who are thought to have worked for them. Police seized four guns during the detentions.

Mr. Hernandez told a news conference that one of the suspects told police another man detained Friday with a 9 mm pistol in his possession was the one who shot Mr. Rosas.

Mr. Rosas, 30, was killed Thursday night while responding alone to a suspected border incursion near Campo, a town in rugged, arid terrain in southeastern San Diego County. He was shot in the head and body and was dead when backup agents arrived, said Keith Slotter, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Diego bureau.

Federal officials have expressed concerns that the drug cartel battles plaguing Mexico could spill into the United States with the targeting of U.S. law enforcement officials.

Mr. Slotter said investigators aren’t ruling out the possibility that Mr. Rosas was slain by drug smugglers or even human smugglers.

Investigators said blood evidence at the scene indicated at least one suspect and possibly more had serious injuries, perhaps by gunfire.

Investigators don’t yet know how many shots were fired, whether Mr. Rosas fired any shots himself and how many guns were used.

“It’s all possible. I can’t definitively say X number of people fired or Agent Rosas got off shots or didn’t. I mean, it’s too early in the investigation to say that with any certainty,” Mr. Slotter said.

Authorities said at least one other agent in the field heard gunshots after Mr. Rosas left to respond to the call and couldn’t reach Mr. Rosas on his radio afterward.

Mr. Rosas was the first Border Patrol agent to die in a shooting in more than a decade, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., which tracks fallen officers using information provided by law enforcement agencies. Another agent, Luis Aguilar, was intentionally run over by a fleeing man driving a drug-laden Hummer in January 2008.

Mr. Rosas, a three-year Border Patrol veteran, had a 2-year-old son and an 11-month-old daughter, said Richard Barlow, acting chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector.

“My thoughts and condolences are with Agent Rosas’ family and his fellow agents at this difficult time,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.

“His death is a vivid reminder that we are engaged in a serious effort to secure our border and that thousands of Border Patrol agents and other DHS employees risk their lives every single day to protect and defend our nation.”

Mr. Barlow said he could not confirm reports that Mr. Rosas called for backup and then went ahead before anyone arrived. But he said it isn’t unusual for agents to work alone along the 60 miles of border in the San Diego sector.

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