Man sentenced to 30 years for slaying of border agent

6:23 AM, Feb 11, 2014   |    comments
Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry (Photo: Detroit Free Press)
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TUCSON (USATODAY.com) - The only man taken into U.S. custody in connection with the 2010 slaying of a Border Patrol agent that revealed the federal government's gun-smuggling investigation was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who is from Mexico, is the only man convicted in the shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on Dec. 14, 2010, near the Arizona-Mexico border.

Terry was slain during a shootout with five bandits as he and other agents searched for drug rip-off crews in a desert area near Nogales, Ariz. Authorities believe the bandits were hoping to ambush marijuana smugglers and steal their loads, but instead ran into the agents.

Osorio-Arellanes was wounded in the shootout and taken into custody at the scene. He later pleaded guilty to felony murder in an agreement with federal prosecutors that eliminated the death penalty.

Osorio-Arellanes has said he never pulled the trigger, but prosecutors indicated he had a history of violent offenses and was carrying an automatic weapon with a full magazine at the scene of the shootout.

A national controversy erupted after the shooting because two assault-type rifles found at the site were part of a gun-running investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That probe, Operation Fast and Furious, permitted weapons to be bought by straw buyers, purportedly so that agents could trace the smuggled weapons to crime bosses in Mexico.

Hundreds of guns wound up going south, into the hands of criminals, with virtually no tracking.

Agents allowed the purchase of 2,000 guns, but they then lost track of more than 1,400 of them. Some of the guns purchased illegally with the government's knowledge were later found at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.

Two other suspects in Terry's death were taken into custody separately in Mexico, one in 2012 and another last fall. Both await extradition.

Terry's mother and two sisters attended the sentencing and offered tearful testimony at the hearing in U.S. District Court where the judgment was handed down Monday. Osorio-Arellanes spoke only briefly.

Dennis Wagner also writes for The Arizona Republic. Contributing: The Associated Press

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