Sixth suspect convicted in fatal shooting of BP agent Terry, one remains to be tried

The sixth of seven suspects in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010 was convicted of murder Tuesday.

The last suspect is in custody in Mexico awaiting extradition to the United States.

Heraclio Osorio Arellanes faces life in prison after a federal jury in Tucson convicted him of first- and second-degree murder, among other charges related to a fatal gunfight with Border Patrol agents north of Nogales. After a five-day trial, the jury deliberated for about two hours before reaching its verdict.

Osorio Arellanes was part of a five-person “rip crew” that robbed drug smugglers of their loads after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. All but one of the seven suspects, which included the recruiter of the rip crew and another conspirator who was not at the scene of the shooting, have been tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Mexican authorities arrested Osorio Arellanes in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 2017. He was extradited to the United States last August.

In his opening statement last week, defense attorney Francisco Leon said the fatal shooting was a “very sad and tragic event.”

Speaking after prosecutors leaned a unloaded assault rifle against a small wall in the courtroom, Leon urged the jurors to think “dispassionately” about the shooting, which happened very quickly in a “rugged area” frequently traversed by illegal border crossers, marijuana backpackers, and rip crews.

“Even with the moon out, it can be very, very dark there. It’s scary,” Leon told the jurors.

“You don’t know what’s out there,” Leon said. “Even if you hear someone say ‘policia,’ how can you be sure?”

The jury found Osorio Arellanes guilty of the murder charges, as well as four counts of assault on a Border Patrol agent; carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; and attempted interference with commerce by robbery.

Osorio Arellanes is scheduled to be sentenced April 29 before U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury.

“Brian Terry’s family will never have its hero back, but his loved ones now have justice,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer of the Southern District of California.

The final suspect in the shooting, Jesus Favela Astorga, was arrested by Mexican authorities. He will be extradited to the United States and tried in Tucson, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern California, which is handling the case.

Terry, 40, joined the Border Patrol in 2007 and worked with the agency’s tactical unit in the Nogales area. Before joining the Border Patrol, he served in the Marine Corps and as a police officer in his home state of Michigan, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Terry and other agents with an elite Border Patrol unit were trying to arrest the group of bandits north of Nogales, Arizona, when shots rang out Dec. 14, 2010.

A bullet from an AK-47 rifle struck Terry near his spine and severed his spinal cord and aorta. Agents were not able to save him.

Investigators collected the rip crew’s four loaded AK-47 rifles, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, 180 rounds of ammunition and food to last for days from the scene, the news release said.

Two of the firearms found at the scene were connected to the botched “Fast and Furious” operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The guns were among about 2,000 sold in Arizona to people suspected of supplying them to drug traffickers in Mexico.

The nationwide controversy that followed included the resignation of Dennis K. Burke, then-U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona was recused from the prosecutions of the suspects in Terry’s killing.

When Osorio Arellanes fled the scene, he left behind his wounded brother, Manuel Osorio Arellanes. Manuel was ultimately sentenced to 30 years in prison, but not before identifying the crew members for authorities.

Ivan Soto Barraza and Jesus Lionel Sanchez Meza were sentenced to life in prison in their first-degree murder convictions in 2015, the release said.

Rosario Rafael Burboa Alvarez pled guilty to first-degree murder and received 27 years in prison.

Rito Osorio Arellanes was given an eight-year sentence after a guilty plea of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery. He was not at the shooting scene.

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