Border Patrol agents at the scene of a fatal shooting of a suspected drug smuggler became angry at sheriff’s homicide detectives investigating the incident, complaining about being treated “like criminals,” according to reports released Tuesday by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department took over the investigation of the shooting death of Jose Luis Arambula, 31, on May 30 during a foot chase in Green Valley.
Arambula was shot in the head by Border Patrol Agent Daniel Marquez, who fired nine times and struck Arambula once, in a pecan grove near Torres Blancas Golf Club, east of the northbound Interstate 19 frontage road.
Marquez’s Border Patrol partner, Agent Todd Palmer, also chased Arambula but did not fire his weapon.
The incident began about 2:30 p.m. when agents attempted to stop Arambula’s vehicle, described as suspicious, on I-19. Arambula did not stop and fled from agents, abandoning the vehicle and running into the pecan grove. Marquez said he fired after Arambula turned toward them and appeared as if he were holding a gun with two hands. Arambula did not have a weapon.
Border Patrol agents found nearly 500 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle. He had been arrested April 4 by deputies who found 300 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle.
The FBI declined to investigate the case and turned it over to the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department. Reports indicate that after some discussions it was determined that the FBI and Border Patrol would not investigate the shooting, since there was “no one to prosecute.”
The scene was initially handled by the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, which called its Special Investigations Unit — similar to internal affairs — to the shooting scene.
The reports indicated several agents who were at the scene but not involved in the shooting seemed unaware of how an officer-involved shooting was investigated, a deputy wrote. Several agents told deputies they had never been trained about how shooting cases were handled or why they would have to turn over evidence and be subjected to investigators’ questions.
“We specifically asked them questions about why the Border Patrol agents did not seem to understand at all what was going on,” a deputy wrote in his incident report. “They said they do not have training in their academy on what would happened after an officer-involved shooting.”
The deputy said he tried to explain to several agents that the investigation would include obtaining search warrants, seizing any firearms involved, questioning agents involved or agents who witnessed the shooting, taking DNA from the two agents involved in the shooting, reading agents their Miranda rights, checking their equipment, taking photographs and other investigative procedures.
“Some of the comments I heard included: ‘We are all cops; why are you treating us like this? This is ridiculous, and there is no need for this,’ ” a deputy wrote in his report.
Many of the comments came from agents who were at the scene but had not been involved in the shooting, according to the reports. Marquez also made statements that he felt he was being treated like a criminal, and Palmer appeared upset and disapproved of the investigation, stated a report.
A deputy wrote in his report that Marquez’s gun was taken by Border Patrol Supervisor Rafael Ruiz, who then gave Marquez his gun. Ruiz told the deputy that it was standard protocol for Border Patrol agents involved in shootings to turn over their firearms to a supervisor. Ruiz said he gave Marquez his firearm so as not to leave the agent in uniform “unarmed.”
Ruiz then turned over the agent’s .40-caliber handgun to the deputy. Earlier, before the scene was turned over to the Sheriff’s Department, Ruiz also removed the magazine from Marquez’s weapon, and then inserted it back in, state reports.
A deputy wrote that when he told a Border Patrol agent that he was going to be subjected to a search warrant for taking photographs of the shooting scene on his cellphone, the agent, identified as James Grayson, said loudly, “Why are you treating me like a criminal?”
The deputy said after explaining to Grayson that the photos he took could be evidence, the agent showed him the photographs he had taken on his cellphone and the deputy took photos of them.
Investigators recovered nine shell casings about 60 to 70 feet away from Arambula’s body.
The investigation’s findings have been turned over to the Pima County Attorney’s Office for review.