The Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against four more people it says are connected to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, as the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of the fugitives.
The criminal charges, unveiled in Tucson, Arizona, accuse Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza of murder, conspiracy, and weapons offenses. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been custody since the shooting. Prosecutors say the men illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico in December 2010, allegedly to try to rob drug traffickers. Instead, they encountered agent Terry and three of his partners in a remote canyon area, where a firefight ensued.
Terry died from his wounds. Two weapons found near his body were later traced to Operation Fast and Furious, an effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to build blockbuster cases against violent Mexican drug cartels. That disclosure launched multiple congressional inquiries that culminated with the U.S House of Representatives voting 255-67 last month to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for withholding internal documents related to the department’s response to congressional and media inquiries.
“Agent Terry served his country honorably and made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect it from harm,” Holder said in a written statement. “And we will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his murder to justice.”
U.S. authorities say the four fugitives could be hiding in Mexico and the unsealing of an indictment handed up in November 2011 may draw publicity to help find them.
Two men are already in custody, captured shortly after the shooting.
Terry’s family has started a foundation to honor his service, offer scholarships and urge authorities to do more to get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious operation.
“It is also our personal mission to guarantee that any mistakes made by the United States Department of Justice are never made again,” the family said in a news release to reporters last weekend.