Originally published on August 10, 2014, at NationofChange.org
The seventh man charged with the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson. Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez has been accused of assembling the crew responsible for robbing drug smugglers and killing a federal agent. Two of the guns found at the crime scene were identified as weapons involved in the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious.
Already incarcerated in Tucson for immigration-related crimes and conducting surveillance on a target for drug robbers, Burboa-Alvarez now faces federal charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, robbery, and attempted robbery in connection with Agent Terry’s death. Although Burboa-Alvarez was not present during the shootout, he allegedly assembled the crew of armed thieves preying on marijuana smugglers along the border.
On the evening of December 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza, Timothy Keller, and Brian Terry encountered a group of five suspected illegal immigrants in a rural area north of Nogales, Arizona. According to an FBI report, a gunfight ensued in which the federal agents switched from nonlethal to lethal rounds after the suspects opened fire with assault weapons. Agent Terry was killed in the shootout.
Wounded during the firefight, Manual Osorio-Arellanes was later arrested near the crime scene. Although the prosecution agreed Osorio-Arellanes had not shot Agent Terry, they still charged him with first-degree murder. In February, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Although he was in custody at the time of Agent Terry’s death, Rito Osorio-Arellanes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery. In January 2013, he received eight years in prison for his association with the crew.
Captured in Mexico in September 2012, Lionel Portillo-Meza was extradited to the U.S. on June 17 and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Ivan Soto-Barraza also pleaded not guilty after his extradition on July 31. Both are being held without bond. Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga and Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes remain fugitives.
An investigation of the crime scene revealed two AK-47 semiautomatic rifles used in the gunfight with serial numbers belonging to an ATF gun-trafficking operation. In 2009, the ATF allowed gun-traffickers to smuggle firearms across the border into Mexico. With the legal backing of U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, Operation Fast and Furious had been approved and funded by a task force at the Justice Department.
After learning that one of these weapons may have been responsible for Agent Terry’s death, ATF officials denied the existence of the operation in an attempt to cover up their involvement. Congress eventually subpoenaed roughly 1,300 pages of records detailing Operation Fast and Furious. By invoking executive privilege, President Obama prevented the Congress from obtaining the Justice Department documents. In response, a House committee held U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
Due to his role in authorizing the failed operation, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke resigned. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Arizona has been recused from the cases involving Agent Terry’s homicide due to the political fallout from its complicity in Operation Fast and Furious.