A Border Patrol agent was shot and killed Tuesday night during a gunbattle with suspected bandits.
Four people, including one suffering gunshot wounds, were taken into custody. Authorities were searching for a fifth suspect Wednesday, said Rick Barlow, deputy chief in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.
Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, of the agency's swat team called Bortac, was killed when he and fellow agents exchanged fire with a group of five people believed to be border bandits about 11 p.m. Tuesday in a remote area west of Rio Rico, said FBI spokeswoman Brenda Nath.
Agent Brandon Judd, president of the agents' union in Arizona, Local 2544, was the first to publicly say bandits were responsible for the killing. Bandits are criminals who try to rip-off loads of drugs and people from smugglers.
Four of the five suspected bandits were in custody Wednesday morning, including one man who was hospitalized for gunshot wounds, he said. The severity of his injuries are unknown. The search for the fifth suspected bandit lasted much of the day and involved officers on horseback and in helicopters scanning the canyons and hills surrounding the Nogales area.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's deputies found a man just before 2 p.m. on southbound Interstate 19 south of Rio Rico about 10 miles from the Mexico border, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. The man has been turned over to the Border Patrol but it doesn't appear he is a suspect.
Terry and his fellow agents from the Bortac team were in the area where the shooting occurred because of the high levels of illegal activity involving armed border bandits.
"It wasn't a surprise encounter," Judd said. "They knew what they were going into."
Border Patrol spokesman Eric Cantu declined to confirm Judd's account.
Bandits are the lowest of the low among criminals operating along the border, despised even by the drug and people smuggling organizations, Judd said.
"This is the biggest scum that you are going to run up against," Judd said.
The shooting occurred in a remote area near Forest Service Road 4197, west of Interstate 19 , said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.
When deputies arrived at Peck Canyon Drive and Circulo Sombrero in Rio Rico, they found Terry dead from gunshot wounds, Estrada said.
The remote area where the shooting occurred is an area frequently used by drug traffickers and people-smugglers.
"All these canyons in Santa Cruz County are notorious for smuggling humans and drugs," Estrada said. "Obviously, it is a very dangerous situation for anyone patrolling those remote areas, particularly for Border Patrol. There is always that threat."
Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department was only serving in a support role, Estrada said. The FBI is handling the investigation.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family for their tragic loss," CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin said in a news release. "Our commitment to Agent Terry and his family is that we will do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for this despicable act."
Terry wasn't married. He is survived by parents and siblings, Judd said. He called Michigan home and his parents live there. He was a police officer for nine years in Detroit before joining the Border Patrol just over three years ago, Judd said.
Terry was a great guy and well liked by colleagues, said Judd, who worked with Terry in Naco. He was a big, muscular guy who stood about 6-foot-4. He was ideal for Bortac, one of the Border Patrol's elite crews.
"He was, by all accounts, an absolutely outstanding agent," Judd said. "He was everything you would want on this team."
Terry was strong-willed, very focused and "lived to protect his country," said his older sister, Michelle Terry-Balogh via phone from her home in southern Detroit.
Born in Flat Rock, Mich. Terry served as a Marine, went to college and worked for two different Michigan police departments before joining the Border Patrol three years ago.
The shooting elicited mixed feelings for Judd, who is president of the agents' union in Arizona, Local 2544.
"You are very saddened when you hear something like this, especially when you know the individual," Judd said. "You are also upset that the activity is such that it continues to present a very dangerous situation for our agents."
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