Five men were named Monday in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed in Tucson, Ariz., in the December 2010 shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, with the FBI announcing a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of four of the men designated as fugitives.
The Terry death has been the catalyst for a heated debate between the Justice Department and Congress over Fast and Furious - a botched gun-running investigation in which two weapons purchased by “straw buyers” during the probe were found at the scene of the Terry shooting, just north of the Arizona-Mexico border.
The Justice Department’s refusal to turn over hundreds of pages of Fast and Furious documents led to a contempt citation by the House against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
According to the indictment, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery, use and carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. A sixth man, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged with conspiracy.
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury on Nov. 7, 2011, alleges that on Dec. 14, 2010, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Favela-Astorga, Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Portillo-Meza engaged in a firefight with four Border Patrol agents and during that exchange, Terry was fatally shot.
According to the indictment, the men illegally entered the United States from Mexico to rob drug traffickers. In addition to the Terry killing, the indictment said the men assaulted Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were with Terry during the firefight.
The shooting occurred just north of Rio Rico, Ariz. Records show that five Mexican nationals - at least two of whom were armed with AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifles - fired at the agents in the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon about 11:15 p.m. with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” the agents.
More than 2,000 weapons were sold during Fast and Furious, 600 of which remain unaccounted for.
Records show that one of the agents, using thermal binoculars, determined that at least two of the Mexicans were carrying rifles. But according to an affidavit in the case by FBI Agent Scott Hunter, when the Mexicans did not drop their weapons as ordered, two agents used their shotguns to fire “less than lethal” beanbags at them.
At least one of the Mexicans opened fire and, according to the affidavit, Terry, a 40-year-old former Marine, was shot in the back. A Border Patrol shooting-incident report said Terry called out, “I’m hit,” and then fell to the ground, a bullet having pierced his aorta. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry told one of the agents who cradled him. “I think I’m paralyzed.” He died at the scene.
After the initial shots, records show two agents returned fire, hitting Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, 33, in the abdomen and leg. The others fled.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes initially was charged with illegal entry, but that charge was dropped when the indictment was handed up. In custody since his arrest the night of the shooting, he was convicted in Phoenix in 2006 of felony aggravated assault, was detained twice in 2010 as an illegal immigrant and had repeatedly been returned to Mexico.
In the Terry killing, two Romanian-built AK-47s found at the scene were identified as having been purchased in a Glendale, Ariz., gun shop as part of the Fast and Furious investigation.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Terry and the agents with him carried fully loaded sidearms, along with two additional magazines, and were not under orders to use nonlethal ammunition first.
“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 Mr. Holder.
Rito Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since Dec. 12, 2010, when he was arrested by Border Patrol agents on immigration charges.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee who first started the Fast and Furious investigation, called the indictment and reward “an important step in the right direction.
“I hope the additional press attention will prompt someone with information to come forward and help the FBI find those who are guilty of Agent Terry’s murder and bring them to justice,” he said. “It’s good to finally see action today.”