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Man Pleads Guilty In Border Agent's Murder

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Man Pleads Guilty In Border Agent's Murder

Man Pleads Guilty In Border Agent's Murder


Manuel Osorio-Arellanes Plea Change Agreement

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A Mexican man charged in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry changed his plea to guilty to first degree murder Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes of Sinaloa has been in custody since December 2010. He admitted in a plea deal that he'd been recruited by two members of a group of bandits. They preyed on marijuana smugglers along the border. Two nights before Terry was killed, the group ran into the Border Patrol. One bandit, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes' brother, Rito, was arrested at that time. The group had been hiding its weapons on the U.S. side of the border and the remaining bandits retrieved the guns after the agents left with Rito.

On Dec. 14, 2010 the bandits ran into the Border Patrol a second time, this time, Agent Terry's tactical unit, BORTAC. Terry was killed in the gunfight. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was wounded. Four fugitives ran off.

But two of the guns they left at the crime scene had come from a Phoenix gunstore. Those weapons had been purchased by an illegal gunbuyer being tracked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the now-notorious gunwalking scandal called Operation Fast and Furious. The FBI has never been able to prove that a bullet from either of the recovered weapons actually killed agent Terry. The bureau has said Terry's death was not the result of friendly fire.

Osorio-Arellanes has said all along that he had a rifle but did not fire when he recognized the agents as law enforcement. Authorities are still searching for three fugitives in the case.

Osorio-Arellanes faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. U.S. prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty. He will be sentenced in January.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.