PHOENIX (AP) — A fugitive accused of pulling the trigger to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent was captured in Mexico more than six years after a slaying that exposed a bungled gun-tracking operation by the U.S. government.
Mexican authorities arrested Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes on Wednesday as the U.S. government has pushed hard to prosecute the suspected marijuana bandits involved in the 2010 death of Brian Terry, 40.
His December 2010 killing unveiled the Fast and Furious operation, in which agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed criminals to buy guns with the intention of tracking them to criminal organizations.
But the agency lost most of the guns, including two that were found at scene of Terry’s death. The operation set off a political backlash for the Obama administration and led the agent’s family to sue.
“Our concern over the last six years is that the individuals responsible for Brian’s murder might not all be brought to justice,” said Robert Heyer, Terry’s cousin and the family spokesman. “We were very, very encouraged with the arrest of this latest fugitive that justice continues and that cooperation between the United States and the Mexican government continues with respect to the law enforcement initiatives.”
Mexican marines took Osorio-Arellanes into custody near the border between the states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua – a mountainous region noted for drug activity, according to a joint statement Thursday from Mexico’s navy and its federal attorney general’s office. He was being held pending extradition proceedings.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Thursday that he was thankful to Mexican authorities and that he hopes the arrest will “mark a significant step” in bringing closure to Terry’s family.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the capture sends a message to criminals.
“Working closely with our international partners, we will hunt you down, we will find you, and we will bring you to justice,” he said in a statement.
Osorio-Arellanes faces nine charges including first-degree and second-degree murder and assault on a federal officer, among others. He was indicted shortly after Terry’s death.
Terry was part of a four-man team in an elite Border Patrol unit staking out the southern Arizona desert on a mission to find “rip-off” crew members who rob drug smugglers. They encountered a group and identified themselves as police in trying to arrest them.
The men refused to stop, prompting an agent to fire non-lethal bean bags at them. They responded by firing from AK-47-type assault rifles. Terry was struck in the back and died shortly afterward.
Several men have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the case. All have been tried in Tucson by federal prosecutors from San Diego, which also will be the case for the latest defendant.
A jury in 2015 found Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza and Ivan Soto-Barraza guilty of murder and other charges.
Manual Osorio-Arellanes pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014. It’s unclear if he’s related to the suspect arrested this week.
Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez also has pleaded guilty to murder. He was not present during the shooting but is accused of assembling the rip-off crew.
Rito Osorio-Arellanes, who was not at the shooting, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery. It’s unclear if he’s related to the other defendants with the same last name.
Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga remains at large.
Fox News was first to report this week’s arrest.
Verza reported from Mexico City. Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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