Mexican police, aided by American investigators, recently arrested one of the fugitives wanted in the slaying of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, but it may be years before he’s brought to the United States.
On Sept. 11, Mexican authorities, with Interpol and the FBI, arrested Ivan Soto-Barraza, 35, near the town of El Fuerte in Sinaloa, the newspaper El Debate reported. Soto-Barraza is accused of murder, robbery and other crimes in connection with Terry’s slaying.
Out of the five men linked to the shooting, three have been arrested and two remain at large, officials say.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who was wounded at the scene and arrested the night of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year. He is set to be sentenced in December in federal court. His sentencing date, however, has been pushed back four times.
Another man, Jesús Leonel Sánchez Meza, was arrested in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, last year and is in prison awaiting extradition to the United States.
Terry, an agent in the patrol’s elite BORTAC unit, was killed on Dec. 14, 2010, in a gunfight with the group of suspected border bandits west of Rio Rico.
The case sparked national controversy when it was revealed two weapons found at the scene were sold by a Phoenix-area dealer to a man suspected in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation called Operation Fast and Furious in which the federal agency lost track of about 2,000 weapons.
The last 2½ years since the shooting have been a waiting game for the family, but members are encouraged by the latest developments, said Robert Heyer, Terry’s cousin and chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation.
The foundation raises funds for the families of fallen Border Patrol agents and for scholarships for those who pursue an education and career in law enforcement.
“We won’t be happy ultimately until both outstanding fugitives being sought in connection to Brian’s murder are taken into custody,” he said. “But we are very appreciative of the efforts being made by the Mexican government and law enforcement involved.”
They are resigned that it’s not going to be a quick process, he said.
Extraditions can take anywhere from six months to six years, said David Shirk, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington, D.C.
“It depends on how quickly the materials can get processed and how much cases are prioritized on both sides of the border,” he said.
In the past, it has taken anywhere from several months to five years to extradite Mexican nationals wanted for murder of federal law enforcement officers.
After the 1998 murder near Nogales of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick, it took five years for the last of four defendants to be captured and extradited to Tucson, according to news archives.