PHOENIX — A firefight that killed a Border Patrol agent near the
Arizona-Mexico border in 2010 erupted as armed men who had sneaked into the
country to rob marijuana smugglers walked in a single-file line toward a group
That’s according to an account given by prosecutors of the shooting that revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling investigation.
Agents sitting atop a small hill and using night-vision gear could see that
rip-off crew members were carrying rifles and waited until the men were close
before an agent yelled “police” in Spanish. The gunmen turned toward the
agents and started to fire, setting off an exchange of gunfire that killed Agent
Brian Terry and wounded acknowledged rip-off crew member Manuel
Osorio-Arellanes, prosecutors said.
“I’m hit,” Terry told fellow agents, noting that he couldn’t feel his legs,
according to court records filed by the agents who were with Terry during the
gun fight. Terry lost consciousness and died at the scene from a single gunshot
The account marks the most complete publicly available summary by prosecutors
of the Dec. 14, 2010, firefight in a canyon just north of the Arizona border
city of Nogales. In the past, federal authorities repeatedly declined to
disclose information about Terry’s death.
Prosecutors recounted details of the shooting in a court record filed in
advance of a sentencing hearing Monday for Osorio-Arellanes, who pleaded guilty
to first-degree murder in Terry’s death. The filing was accompanied by written
accounts from three Border Patrol agents who were with Terry as he died.
Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence for Osorio-Arellanes.
Clay Hernandez, Osorio-Arellanes’ lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call
seeking comment Tuesday.
Terry’s stepmother, Carolyn Terry, said Osorio-Arellanes’ upcoming sentencing
won’t give the family any closure. “We don’t know what happened to him out
there that night,” she said, noting her family and their attorney are still
looking for answers.
Federal authorities who conducted the operation have faced
criticism for allowing suspected straw gun buyers for a smuggling ring to walk
away from gun shops in Arizona with weapons, rather than arrest them and seize
Two rifles bought by a gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored through
“Fast and Furious” were found at the scene of the firefight. But authorities
have declined to say whether the murder weapon in Terry’s death was linked to a
purchase from the investigation.
The guilty plea by Osorio-Arellanes in October 2012 marked the biggest
conviction to date in a case that embarrassed the federal government and
prompted a series of congressional investigations. Members of the gun-smuggling
ring that was being monitored in the gun-smuggling investigation have
pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Osorio-Arellanes, who is from El Fuerte in the Mexican state of Sinaloa,
suffered gunshot wounds to his torso and was unable to flee. Authorities said
four other Mexican men charged in Terry’s death ran away to Mexico. Two have
since been arrested and are undergoing extradition proceedings, while two others, including Osorio-Arellanes’ brother, remain fugitives in Mexico, prosecutors
Prosecutors said the evidence shows the rip-off crew members knew they were
firing at law enforcement officers.
Osorio-Arellanes has denied hearing the agents announce their presence and
denied firing at the agents. Prosecutors said there’s circumstantial evidence to
support Osorio-Arellanes’ claim that he didn’t shoot Terry said.