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Man indicted in Ariz. border agent's killing

The indictment for Manuel Osorio-Arellanes of El Fuerte, Mexico, was unsealed Friday at his arraignment in Tucson

By Jacques Billeaud and Amanda Lee Myers
Associated Press

PHOENIX — A federal grand jury has indicted a man on eight charges, including second-degree murder, in a shootout that left a Border Patrol agent dead near the Arizona-Mexico border and heightened fears in the state about cross-border violence.

The indictment for Manuel Osorio-Arellanes of El Fuerte, Mexico, was unsealed Friday at his arraignment in Tucson. It also included charges of assault on a federal officer, carrying a firearm to carry out a crime and re-entering the U.S. after being deported.

An attorney for Osorio-Arellanes entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. His trial is set to begin on June 17 in Tucson.

U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said in a statement that the indictment "is an important step in this case."

"But it is only a first step to serving justice on behalf of Agent Brian Terry, his family, and the other agents who were with Terry and their families," he said.

Terry was killed in the Dec. 14 shootout with bandits about 13 miles north of the border.

The shooting broke out as Terry and three other agents tried to catch five suspected illegal immigrants at the bottom of a flat canyon north of the Arizona city of Nogales. At least two of the immigrants were carrying assault rifles in the "ready position" when they encountered the agents, according to the indictment.

The FBI said in court records that when the immigrants refused to drop their guns, two agents fired beanbag rounds at them.

Two of the immigrants then fired at the agents, the indictment said, leading the officers to return fire.

No other agents besides Terry were wounded.

Osorio-Arellanes was shot during the gunfight and later told investigators that he had raised his gun toward the agents but didn't fire at them, the FBI said in records.

Three other illegal immigrants were arrested near the scene but were later cleared of involvement in the shootout. Federal authorities haven't said whether other suspects are in custody, although one or more other plaintiffs are listed on the indictment. Their names were blacked out.

Terry, a former Marine and Michigan police officer, was part of an elite squad similar to a police SWAT team that was sent to the remote areas north of Nogales known for border banditry, drug smuggling and violence.

Firearms records show that two rifles found at the scene of the shootout were the same weapons being monitored by federal firearms agents as part of a gun trafficking investigation.

Bandits have operated at the border for decades, robbing and sexually assaulting illegal immigrants crossing into the country.

The bandits stake out heavily traveled smuggling paths used by illegal immigrants and sneak up on them, pointing guns, forcing border-crossers to the ground and stealing all their valuables.

Federal authorities have repeatedly declined to release information about the shooting.

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have all denied Freedom of Information Act requests that seek reports and other documents in the investigation of the shooting, explaining that it's an open investigation.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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