Border Patrol agents’ conviction in shooting riles union chief
TwoU.S.BorderPatrolagentsfacing in prison for shooting in the buttocks a drug-smuggling suspect should get a new trial because they are “victims of prosecutorial misconduct,” including an unjust grant of immunity, says the head of the National Border Patrol Council.
NBPC President T.J. Bonner said exonerating evidence was withheld during the March trial of Senior AgentsIgnacio“Nacho”Ramosand JoseA.Compean,whosesentencing is set for Aug. 22, adding that the agents followed long-established BorderPatrolpoliciesintheincident.
He also said the suspect fled into Mexico after the shooting but later was given immunity on drugsmuggling charges against the agents.
“Thisthingstinkstohighheaven,” Mr.Bonner said. “Iamoutragedand at a loss to explain why there were so many irregularities in this case. Theonlythingthat is clear is thatthe prosecutors pointed their guns at the wrong guys, the good guys, and they let the bad guy walk. Now they want to send these agents to prison for doing their job.
“That offends me, and I believe most Americans would agree,” he said.
On Aug. 11, two of the 12 jurors whoconvictedtheagentstoldtheInland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario, Calif., that they were pressuredbyprosecutorstoreturnguilty verdictsandthatotherjurorssought aquickverdictbecausespringbreak to testify wasaweekawayandtheywanted to avoid a long deliberation.
Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was wounded as he ran from the agents along the Rio Grande near El Paso, Texas. The agents said he pointed what appeared to be a gun at them astheytriedtoapprehendhim.More than800poundsofmarijuana,worth $1 million, was found in the van he abandoned at the river’s edge.
Aldrete-Davila is suingthefederal governmentfor$5million,sayinghis civil rights were violated.
A federal jury in El Paso convicted Ramos, 37, andCompean, 28, in March of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and acivil rights violation. The shooting occurred Feb. 17.
Spotted in his van near the Rio Grande, records show Ramos gave chasewhileCompeancircledaround to head off the suspect. When Aldrete-Davila jumped out of the van and ran south to the river, he was confronted by Compean, who was thrown to thegroundasthetwomen fought. Ramos said he saw Compean on the ground and chased Aldrete-Davila to the river, where the suspectsuddenlyturnedtowardhim, pointing what looked like a gun.
“I shot, but I didn’t think he was hit because he kept running into the brush and then disappeared into it,” Ramos said. “Later, we all watched as he jumped into a van waiting for him. He seemed fine. It didn’t look like he had been hit at all.”
Mr. Bonner said that two weeks later, Aldrete-Davila called aBorder Patrol agent in Arizona to say he was “forming a hunting party” to track down and shoot some agents for revenge. Mr. Bonner said the agent, who lived in Mexico and knew Aldrete-Davila before immigrating to the United States and becoming a citizen, advised against the plan and said he would report the incident to the Department of Homeland Security.
An investigator from the Office of Inspector General tracked down Aldrete-Davila in Mexico, where he was offered immunity in exchange for testimony. Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Kanof, who prosecuted the case, was not available for comment on Aug. 15. During the trial, she argued it was a violation of Border Patrol policy for agents to pursue fleeing suspects.