ARIZONA – Five illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles were hunting for U.S. Border Patrol agents near a desert watering hole known as Mesquite Seep just north of the Arizona-Mexico border when a firefight erupted and one U.S. agent was killed, records show.
A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents.
At least two of the Mexicans carried their assault rifles “at the ready position,” one of several details about the attack showing that Mexican smugglers are becoming more aggressive on the U.S. side of the border.
According to the indictment, the Mexicans were “patrolling the area in single-file formation” a dozen miles northwest of the border town of Nogales and — in the darkness of the Arizona night — opened fire on four Border Patrol agents after the agents identified themselves in Spanish as police officers.
Two AK-47 assault rifles found at the scene came from the failed Fast and Furious operation.
Using thermal binoculars, one of the agents determined that at least two of the Mexicans were carrying rifles, but according to an affidavit in the case by FBI agent Scott Hunter, when the Mexicans did not drop their weapons as ordered, two agents used their shotguns to fire “less than lethal” beanbags at them.
At least one of the Mexicans opened fire and, according to the affidavit, Terry, a 40-year-old former U.S. Marine, was shot in the back. A Border Patrol shooting-incident report said that Terry called out, “I’m hit,” and then fell to the ground, a bullet having pierced his aorta. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry told one of the agents who cradled him. “I think I’m paralyzed.”
Bleeding profusely, he died at the scene.
After the initial shots, two agents returned fire, hitting Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, 33, in the abdomen and leg. The others fled. The FBI affidavit said Osorio-Arellanes admitted during an interview that all five of the Mexicans were armed.
Peck Canyon is a notorious drug-smuggling corridor.
Osorio-Arellanes initially was charged with illegal entry, but that case was dismissed when the indictment was handed up. It named Osorio-Arellanes on a charge of second-degree murder, but did not identify him as the likely shooter, saying only that Osorio-Arellanes and others whose names were blacked out “did unlawfully kill with malice aforethought United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry while Agent Terry was engaged in … his official duties.”
The indictment also noted that Osorio-Arellanes had been convicted in Phoenix in 2006 of felony aggravated assault, had been detained twice in 2010 as an illegal immigrant, and had been returned to Mexico repeatedly.
Bill Brooks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s acting southwest border field branch chief, referred inquiries to the FBI, which is conducting the investigation. The FBI declined to comment.
The case against Osorio-Arellanes and others involved in the shooting has since been sealed, meaning that neither the public nor the media has access to any evidence, filings, rulings or arguments.
The U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego, which is prosecuting the case, would confirm only that it was sealed. Also sealed was the judge’s reason for sealing the case.