|02-27-2008, 12:23 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Jan 2006
U.S. border agent murder trial begins
U.S. border agent murder trial begins Tue Feb 26, 1:36 PM ET
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A U.S. Border Patrol agent went on trial on Tuesday in the killing of a Mexican man attempting to cross illegally into Arizona, a case closely watched by pro- and anti-illegal immigrant groups.
Jury selection began in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz., to decide the fate of agent Nicholas Corbett, who faces second-degree murder charges for killing Francisco Dominguez Rivera in the southern Arizona desert.
Corbett, who has claimed through attorneys that he shot in self defense, is also charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide in connection with the January 12, 2007, incident.
Dominguez Rivera, 22, was fatally shot after crossing an isolated stretch of the border between Naco and Douglas with his two brothers and the girl friend of one of the brothers. Corbett said he shot after being threatened with a rock.
The incident drew an immediate rebuke by the Mexican government, with that country's Foreign Ministry complaining of "disproportionate violence." Diplomats at the Mexican Embassy in Washington called for a thorough investigation.
Jennifer Allen, executive director of Tucson-based Border Action Network, said the human-rights group plans a weeklong vigil in front of the courthouse.
"We'll be there to send a message affirming that no one is above the law and calling for justice in this case," said Allen, who added that the case underscores the need for better training for agents and oversight.
A Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson had no immediate comment.
A top border patrol union official said the case has been overblown by prosecutors and never should have reached trial. "We're hopeful that justice will prevail and he is found innocent of all charges," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
Two years ago, two Border Patrol agents in Texas were tried for shooting an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks in a case that drew widespread attention. Ignacio Ramos received 11 years and a day in prison and Jose Alonso Compean was sentenced to 12 years.
(Reporting by David Schwartz, writing by Tim Gaynor, editing by Jackie Frank)
|02-27-2008, 10:13 PM||#2|
Angling in the Deep
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Texas Riviera, Southern Mountains
BORDER SHOOTING: Three men in Corbett's truck heard gunshot, but saw little
Published on Thursday, March 29, 2007
THIS IS the first of three stories about what is in reports released earlier this week on the Jan. 12 border shooting. In Friday’s edition, read what the Border Patrol agent who shot and killed the illegal immigrant told fellow agents and Border Patrol supervisors who arrived at the scene afterward.
By Jonathan Clark
In this photograph taken by Cochise County Sheriff's Office investigators on Jan. 12, a Border Patrol vehicle driven by Nicholas Corbett, right, remains in the position where Corbett stopped in order to detain a group of four illegal Mexican immigrants, including Francisco Javier Dominguez-Rivera. Corbett fatally shot Dominguez-Rivera during the detention. (Courtesy of the Cochise County Attorney's Office)
BISBEE — On their way to an illegal border-crossing into the United States, Aurelio Mendez Zamaron, 34, and his uncle, Felipe Mendez Aleman, 36, spent the night of Jan. 11 at a hotel in Agua Prieta, Sonora, after traveling from their respective homes in the central Mexican states of Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.
The next morning, the two men took a taxi to an area outside the city, where they met up with another group and began walking through the desert toward the U.S. border.
“Prior to crossing, some bandits robbed them, and (Felipe) said they even took his shoes,” wrote Sheriff’s Office detective Wendy Adney in a report detailing her interviews with the men on Jan. 12. “So the shoes he was wearing were not his.”
Following the robbery, Aurelio and Felipe’s party met up with another group, the men said, and the two groups, now consisting of approximately 25 to 30 people, together crossed into the United States.
A short time later — Aurelio said he could not recall how long and Felipe made no mention of the time — the group reached a road, possibly Border Road, and saw railroad tracks ahead.
At the same moment, they saw a Border Patrol vehicle approaching.
The border-crossers turned and ran back toward Mexico, just a few hundred yards away. But just before they reached the international boundary, Aurelio, Felipe and a third man, Miguel Angel Lopez Perez, 29, from the central state of Guanajuato, were stopped by a Border Patrol agent.
The agent, now known to be Nicholas Corbett, had a gun in his hand when he approached them, although he was not pointing it, Felipe and Aurelio said. Miguel Angel did not remember a gun.
Felipe recalled that Corbett told them, in Spanish, to sit down. Miguel Angel, who reportedly understands some English, said Corbett yelled at them in English, telling them: “Sit down on your butts, motherf------!”
After arresting the three men, Corbett put them in the back seat of his SUV and drove off through the desert scrub toward another group made up of three men and a woman — 22-year-old Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera, two of his brothers and his sister-in-law.
“Miguel stated that the agent seemed more aggressive with the second group, like he was angry,” Adney wrote.
“Felipe stated that after the agent circled around the group of four, the agent exited his vehicle, running around the back. Within seconds, he heard a gun shot.”
Neither Felipe, Aurelio nor Miguel Angel saw the shooting, though they all reported hearing the shot seconds after Corbett left his truck. Miguel Angel stated that, in addition to the gun shot, he also heard a female scream. Aurelio heard someone make an “ugh” sound after the gun went off.
Corbett reportedly told his supervisors that he shot Dominguez-Rivera because he threatened him with a rock. However, the three men in Corbett’s back seat denied seeing anyone with a rock.
“I asked Felipe if at any time he saw anyone from the second group pick up or throw any rocks,” Adney reports. “Felipe stated that he did not.”
None of the three men reported seeing Corbett holding his gun when he got out of the truck. They were not sure if he had been steering with one hand or two, or if he had been pointing his gun as he drove.
The surviving members of Dominguez-Rivera’s group, however, told investigators that Corbett was pointing his gun as he circled them.
Field tests by Adney and Sheriff’s Deputy J. Gjerde showed that views of the driver from the back seat of Corbett’s SUV were mostly obscured by a metal screen, although the person in the center seat, Aurelio, would have been able to see a gun if Corbett had extended his arm toward the passenger side window.
“Aurelio stated that he is a nervous person,” Adney wrote.
“After he was arrested, he really did not pay much attention to what was going on, and just thought about wanting to get back home to his family.”
During her second set of interviews on Jan. 18, Adney asked each of the men if anyone had told them what to say. All three said no.
On Jan. 31, Aurelio, Felipe and Miguel Angel were repatriated to Mexico City on a flight from Tucson.
Earlier this week, in response to a public records request from the Herald/Review and the Arizona Daily Star, Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer released the evidence collected by Sheriff’s Office investigators in the Corbett case.
The nearly 300 pages of documents and two compact discs include:
- An autopsy report by Dr. Guery Flores, county medical examiner, which concludes that the bullet that killed Dominguez-Rivera entered his upper left chest and followed a diagonally vertical trajectory through his lung, heart, stomach and liver before lodging in his right abdomen.
- A state Department of Public Safety crime lab report showing that Dominguez-Rivera was shot at a distance of 3 inches to 2 1/2 feet.
- A grainy surveillance video shot from a Border Patrol camera tower two miles away that shows Corbett circle the Dominguez-Rivera party in his government-owned sports utility vehicle before exiting and dashing around the back of the truck. When Corbett reaches the group, a body appears to lurch forward. Rheinheimer said the FBI is currently working to enhance the sureveillance video and he won’t decide whether to charge Corbett until the FBI returns the improved tape.
- Photographs of the shooting scene.
- Witness statements and internal Border Patrol memos from agents who responded to the incident.
Two interviews done
Wendy Adney, a detective with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, conducted two sets of interviews with three men who were in the back seat of Nicholas Corbett’s Border Patrol vehicle when Corbett fatally shot Francisco Javier Dominguez-Rivera in the desert east of Naco at 3:19 p.m. on Jan. 12.
The first set of interviews took place at the Naco Border Patrol Station on the night of the shooting, and the follow-up interviews were performed Jan. 18 at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Florence. Both sets of interviews were conducted through a translator. Information for this story was collected from reports written by Adney after the interviews.