- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Prosecutors trying two men for the 2010 killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent rested their case Monday after a former FBI agent testified that the men confessed to being among armed thieves who planned on robbing marijuana smugglers on the night of the killing.

Retired FBI agent Todd Polley interviewed Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, also known as Lionel Portillo-Meza, and Ivan Soto-Barraza after they were arrested in Mexico in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The men are accused of being members of a five-man “rip crew” that had planned to rob drug smugglers when they encountered Brian Terry and three other agents on Dec. 14, 2010. A gunfight ensued and Terry was killed.

Defense attorney Ramiro Flores has said the defendants fled when shots were fired and did not initiate the firefight.

Two guns found at the scene were traced to a botched federal gun sting that allowed criminals to buy weapons with the intention of tracking them. Instead, federal agents lost most of the weapons.

Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza are the first defendants in the case to go on trial. Two others - including a man who assembled the crew but who was not present that night - have pleaded guilty and two are fugitives.

Polley said Soto-Barraza told him he was carrying a loaded assault rifle on the night Terry was shot.

“The weapon was to be used to rip off drug backpackers,” Polley said.

But Flores challenged the accuracy of Polley’s statement, saying the agent had only loosely translated what Sanchez-Meza said and had already prepared the suspect’s written declaration before speaking with him.

For example, Polley testified that Sanchez-Meza said he’d been “patrolling” the area for drug smugglers, which Flores said as not a verbatim translation of what his client said.

“That was your spin on his rendition of his declaration,” Flores said. “Why not stick to the words he actually used?”

Polley was the final witness for the prosecution. Other witnesses have said DNA and fingerprint evidence found at the scene match Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza. The defense will begin presenting witnesses Wednesday.

In early testimony, former agent William Castano broke down in tears as he described desperately trying to save Terry’s life.

Castano was the leader of a four-man crew from an elite tactical unit on an operation aimed at arresting rip crew members. The team was set to be relieved an hour after the shooting occurred.

The gunfight began when an agent yelled “policia” at the men and they refused to stop. An agent then fired bean bags, which are not deadly, and members of the rip crew began firing from assault rifles, authorities said.

It appears Terry never had a chance to fire. He died of a gunshot wound that entered through his back.

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