The Justice Department has unsealed an indictment charging five individuals allegedly involved in Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s 2010 death, and announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest of those suspects still at large.
For the first time, federal officials also revealed that Terry and an elite squad of federal agents initially fired bean bags, not bullets, at a heavily armed drug cartel crew in the mountains south of Tucson in December 2010. During the exchange, Terry was shot and killed. Terry near the Arizona-Mexico border during a shootout with suspected illegal immigrants and drug smugglers in the desert near Naco.
The announcement comes amid an intensifying debate over the department’s failed Fast and Furious anti-gunrunning operation. Weapons from that program were found at Terry’s murder scene. Republicans seeking documents pertaining to Fast and Furious last month escalated their probe by voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The 11-count indictment, originally handed up by a grand jury in November 2011, implicates five defendants in the killing. A sixth suspect has also been charged in a related incident. The two men in custody are Manuel Osario Arellanes who was wounded in the foot the night of the incident and his brother Rito. Rito, who was arrested two nights before the Terry shooting, allegedly helped provide weapons to the criminal gang used in the shooting. The other four are believed to be hiding out in Mexico, and the U.S. is now offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to their arrest. All six men named in the indictment are either related or friends.
According to the indictment, the five defendants are charged with crimes including first-degree murder, second-degree murder and assault on a federal officer. The indictment alleges that the five defendants also assaulted three other Border Patrol agents who were with Terry at the time.
The names of the four suspects were revealed Monday, and their pictures released, to the public. Police in the U.S. and in Mexico are cooperating and under intense pressure to find them. The FBI says it has been actively searching for the outstanding fugitives. The case is being prosecuted in Tuscon by federal attorneys from the department’s southern California district.
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