3 cleared in Tucson border agent's slaying

FBI rules out friendly fire
2011-02-15T13:12:00Z 2011-02-16T00:03:20Z 3 cleared in Tucson border agent's slayingBrady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 15, 2011 1:12 pm  • 

On a day when the FBI said friendly fire was not a factor in a gunfight with bandits near Nogales in which Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed, three of the four men arrested that night were cleared in connection with the Dec. 14 shooting and set up for deportation this week.

The FBI's statement that friendly fire was not a factor in the Terry's death puts to rest speculation about the events that led to Terry's death.

"There is no evidence of that all," FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson said Tuesday.

The clearing of the three illegal immigrants from Mexico - two of whom plead guilty to immigration charges on Tuesday and one who will today - leaves one man in custody who was arrested that night.

He is a 34-year-old from Mexico, was wounded in the shootout that killed Terry in a remote canyon, Border Patrol officials said. He is charged with illegal re-entry after deportation and is awaiting a trial schedule for March 8, said Heather Williams of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Tucson.

Williams said she has not been notified if the U.S. Attorney's Office plans to charge him in connection with the shooting.

The U.S. Attorney's Office wouldn't say if he will be charged, but issued a statement about clearing the other three:

"Based upon an extensive investigation conducted to date, there is no evidence tying these three individuals to the shooting of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry," said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Robbie Sherwood in an email. "The goal of the ongoing FBI-lead joint investigation into that shooting is to achieve justice for Border Patrol agent Terry, and bring criminal charges against those responsible for this murder. We continue to devote significant resources and manpower to this investigation. This investigation is extremely active and progressing."

Agent Terry was killed during a shootout with suspected border bandits near Peck Canyon northwest of Nogales late in the evening. The FBI, the lead investigative agency, is not commenting on the ongoing investigation.

Terry, 40, was the tenth agent to die on duty in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector since 1926 and the first agent shot to death since 1998.

Terry was buried in his hometown of Detroit on Dec. 22 and hundreds attended a memorial service last month in Tucson.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com.

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