Brian Terry Family Applauds Indictment of Mexican Suspects, But Still Seeks Answers From DOJ
“It has been a difficult 18 months for the family since Brian Terry was murdered in December of 2010, and today’s announcement provides hope that justice will eventually be served,” said Robert Heyer, chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation and cousin to Brian Terry, in a statement.
The family specifically thanked U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy for the Southern District of California for efforts to make the indictments public on Monday.
In a press release, the Justice Department also announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of the Mexican suspects.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with crimes including first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery. A $1 million FBI reward was also announced for information leading to the capture of the suspects.
The 11-count, third superseding indictment, which was handed up by a federal grand jury in Arizona on Nov. 7, 2011, alleges that on Dec. 14, 2010, five of the defendants engaged in a firefight with Border Patrol agents. During the exchange of gunfire, Agent Terry was shot and killed.
The indictment alleges that the defendants had illegally entered the United States from Mexico for the purpose of robbing drug traffickers of their contraband.
“The Terry family would like to thank U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and her team of prosecutors along with the special agents of the FBI’s Tucson Office and the Mexico City Legal Attaché who have continued to pursue leads in the murder case that ultimately led to the additional indictments of the four fugitive defendants. The Terry family would also like to thank the government of Mexico for their assistance in the investigation. It is the family’s hope that the unsealing of details in the case, the identification of the four fugitives and the issuance of reward monies will lead to the eventual capture of all individuals responsible for the murder of Agent Terry.”
Two of the guns found at Terry’s murder scene were part of the Operation Fast and Furious program in which the Justice Department allowed guns to “walk” across the Mexican border to drug cartels with the intent of tracing them to crime scenes. The operation began in November 2009 and ended shortly after Terry’s death.
In a bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives last month voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide most of the information that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoenaed from the Justice Department.
“Agent Terry served his country honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect it from harm, and we will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his murder to justice,” Holder said in a statement. “This investigation has previously resulted in one defendant being charged with Agent Terry’s murder and taken into custody, and today’s announcement reflects the department’s unrelenting commitment to finding and arresting the other individuals responsible for this horrific tragedy so that Agent Terry’s family, friends and fellow law enforcement agents receive the justice they deserve.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he applauds the DOJ’s announcement of a reward and indictments in the case, but “I also question the timing,” he said.
“It’s very clear that the timing has everything to do with the House of Representatives holding Eric Holder in contempt for not turning over information,” Issa told Fox News. “This should have been done – the Terry family should have seen this attempt to go public and to try to get the murderers of Brian Terry – they should have seen it happen a year ago.”
Terry’s family still wants answers as to how the Justice Department allowed this program to continue, said the Terry family attorney Patrick McGroder in a statement.
“The accountability aspect of Operation Fast and Furious, the flawed ATF/DOJ gun trafficking investigation that put weapons into the hands of the men that killed Brian Terry, remains stalled,” said McGroder.
“The Terry family once again asks that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice comply with the request for documents made by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee so that all Americans can know who approved of the operation in order that those individuals can be held accountable for their decisions. Agent Terry died as a hero protecting this country; he and his family rightly deserve a full and thorough explanation of how Operation Fast and Furious came to be.”
U.S. Attorney Duffy said the indictment reflects progress in the investigation.
“Agent Terry died in the line of duty while protecting his country,” Duffy said in a statement. “But he was more than a federal agent – he was a son, a brother, a co-worker and a friend to many. The indictment unsealed today reflects the progress our dedicated law enforcement team has made piecing together this complex murder case. But there is more work to be done and we will not rest until we bring justice to the family of Brian Terry.”