Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Border Patrol Agent Killed, Four Arrested So Far

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Four people have been arrested in connection with the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent who died this morning after a late-night shootout close to the Mexican border, officials said. At least one other suspect was still on the loose.

The agent, 40-year-old Brian Terry, died this morning in a Tucson hospital after being shot last night. According to various reports, he was trying to catch “bandits” who target illegal immigrants crossing the border. Terry is reportedly the 111th Border Patrol agent to be killed in the line of duty since 1919.

Shortly after the agent was pronounced dead, his union, Local 2544 of the National Border Patrol Council, released a stinging statement on its website condemning the U.S government.

“This is one more example of the sacrifices made by front-line agents, and it's a major reason we are continually outraged by activists and self-serving politicians in Washington DC who sell us out with incessant talk about ‘amnesty’ for illegal aliens,” the union said. “While they play games, our country continues to be invaded and Border Patrol agents continue to pay the price. Please don't let Agent Terry's death be in vain.” The union urged supporters to contact their elected officials.

A flurry of politicians, union officials, and government spokespeople also condemned the killing and offered various comments. "This is a sign that the politicians and bureaucrats are overly optimistic in their assessment that the borders are more secure now than at any point in our history. It showed just the opposite," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano, who oversees the Border Patrol, released a statement calling the killing "an unconscionable act of violence against the men and women of the Border Patrol and all those who serve and defend our country." She said it was “a stark reminder of the very real dangers our men and women on the frontlines confront every day as they protect our communities and the American people."

In another statement, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin vowed to prosecute those responsible. “Our commitment to Agent Terry and his family is that we will do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for this despicable act,” he promised. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family for their tragic loss."

The incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee took the opportunity to lambaste the President’s policies, and by extension, the Department of Homeland Security. "The Obama administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws, coupled with calls for mass amnesty, only encourage more illegal immigration," Texas Republican Lamar Smith said in a statement after hearing of the agent’s death. "Our border remains porous and the Obama administration has done nothing to stop the steady flow of human and drug smuggling from Mexico."

Civilian groups also condemned the attack and thanked the deceased agent for his service. "Each day a special group of men and women put their lives on the line for the safety and security of this country. The agents of the United States Border Patrol are normally rancher's first responders and usually the only law enforcement on our ranches across the Southern Arizona Border,” the Arizona Cattlemen's Association said in a statement to a local news agency. “Today we are deeply saddened by the loss of Agent Brian Terry, a patrol officer from the Nogales Border Patrol Station. We are thankful for his dedicated service to protecting the United States of America."

Countless other elected representatives and officials also released statements offering similar comments and condolences. A memorial page has already been set up on the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Agent Terry, who also served in the military and was a Border Patrol agent for several years, is survived by his parents and siblings. He was working with a specialized unit that deals with particularly dangerous situations.

The fatal shootout happened about 10 miles north of the border near Rio Rico, a known hotspot for human traffickers and other criminals. Agent Terry was shot while trying to apprehend a group of heavily armed suspects who were reportedly preying on illegal immigrants trying to get across the border.

Details on exactly what happened remain murky so far, but a probe is ongoing. A manhunt is also underway to apprehend a fifth suspect who managed to flee. News reports speculated that the fugitive could be heading back across the border, where U.S. agents would no longer have jurisdiction.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s office will also be participating in the investigation, and more details are expected in the coming days.

Photo: This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry: AP Images

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