An indictment unsealed today in Arizona federal district court charges five people in the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry, whose killing was linked to a botched gun trafficking sting called Operation Fast and Furious.
In announcing the charges, the U.S. Justice Department offered a $1 million award for the capture of four fugitives. One of the five men has been in custody since the night of the shooting in Dec. 2010, along Arizona's border with Mexico.
The authorities said the defendants illegally entered the United States to rob drug traffickers. DOJ said today it was unsealing the indictment (PDF) to seek help from the public in tracking down the fugitives.
“Agent Terry served his country honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect it from harm, and we will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his murder to justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement. Holder said the department has an "unrelenting commitment to finding and arresting the other individuals responsible for this horrific tragedy so that Agent Terry’s family, friends and fellow law enforcement agents receive the justice they deserve.”
The indictment was handed up in November 2011 in Tucson federal district court. The charging documents said five defendants, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza, participated in a firefight with Border Patrol agents. Terry was fatally shot.
The defendants are also charged with assaulting Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were with Terry during the gun battle.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been in custody since his arrest the night of the shooting. A sixth person, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, who is charged with a conspiracy count, has been detained since arrest in December 2010.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are leading congressional inquiries into the Justice Department's handling over the Fast and Furious gun investigation.
The House of Representatives in a largely party-line vote held Holder in contempt June 28 for his refusal to turn over certain internal documents about Fast and Furious. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute Holder on the charge, setting up a court fight in Washington over the documents.
Holder has charged Republicans with "political gamesmanship," saying DOJ has fully cooperated with congressional investigators. The Justice Department is also conducting an internal review of Fast and Furious.
Michael Horowitz, the new inspector general at Justice, told NPR "we've got the evidence in front of us, we've got the documents, we've got the interviews that we have done and we're going to need to report on those fairly, fully and completely."