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Mexican official says no retrial of Arizona rancher is 'a very regrettable decision'

Mexico's top official in the Arizona border town of Nogales said Tuesday his country is displeased that prosecutors in the U.S. won't retry an American rancher accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property.

Prosecutors had the option to retry George Alan Kelly, 75, or drop the case after the jury deadlocked on a verdict last week and the judge declared a mistrial.

“This seems to us to be a very regrettable decision,” Mexican Consul General Marcos Moreno Baez said of the announcement a day earlier by the Santa Cruz County Attorney Office.

“We will explore other options with the family, including a civil process,” Moreno said, referring to the possibility of a lawsuit.

Kelly had been charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 30, 2023, shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, who lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico.

Prosecutors had said Kelly recklessly fired nine shots from an AK-style rifle toward a group of men about 100 yards (90 meters) away on his cattle ranch near the U.S. southern border. Kelly has said he fired warning shots in the air, but argued he didn’t shoot directly at anyone.

Judge Thomas Fink said a hearing would be scheduled later to determine if the case would be dismissed with prejudice, which would mean it couldn’t be brought back to court. No new documents in the case had been posted by midday Tuesday.

Kelly's defense attorney Brenna Larkin welcomed the decision not to retry her client.

“Mr. Kelly and his wife have been living through a nightmare for over a year, and they can finally rest easy,” said Larkin said Tuesday. “While that injustice to Gabriel and his family is unfortunate, we are at least pleased to know that the injustice will not be compounded by scapegoating an innocent man.”

Larkin said she was "curious about the Mexican government’s continued involvement in this case"" and noted that Cuen-Buitimea had been arrested and deported several times for illegal entry into the U.S.

Moreno said the consulate he heads in Nogales, Arizona, will continue supporting Cuen-Buitimea's family. Consular officials sat with the victim's two adult daughters during the trial.

The trial coincided with a U.S. presidential election race that has drawn widespread interest in border security. During it, court officials took jurors to Kelly’s ranch as well as a section of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Associated Press