TUCSON — A Mexican man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's slaying, which led to the unraveling of the failed federal gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, 37, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October 2012 in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, apologized in court.
"I regret what happened, sir," Osorio-Arellanes told the judge in Spanish. "I too was hurt. I don't know what else to say. Please forgive me."
He was part of a group of bandits who engaged in a shootout with Terry and three other Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona, just south of Tucson, in December 2010. Terry, 40, was a member of the U.S. Border Patrol's elite tactical unit that had been working the area for several nights, a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
During the confrontation, the bandits scattered toward Mexico, but Osorio-Arellanes was shot in the torso and unable to run. Agents discovered a live round in the chamber of the rifle he was carrying and 24 more in the magazine. He also had another magazine on him loaded with more rounds.
Two weapons recovered from the shooting scene were traced to the Fast and Furious operation led by the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That triggered the unraveling of the operation and one of the biggest controversies of President Obama's first term.
At Monday's hearing, Terry's mother, Josephine Terry, told U.S. District Judge David Bury her family had suffered through the worst years of their lives. "I will never hear the words, 'I love you, Mom,'" she said.
"Brian is my hero," Josephine Terry said. "Brian was a dedicated American. He would always say this was the best country in the world."
Brian Terry's sister Michelle Terry-Balogh told the judge: "The pain will never go away. Where is the justice in that? Let me answer that; there is none."
Her brother's absence has been felt during touchstones of their lives, she said, including her daughter's wedding. "My parents both have holes in their hearts that will never be repaired."
Osorio-Arellanes' wife and sisters attended the hearing but did not speak. Afterward, they rushed out of the courthouse and declined to talk with reporters.
The judge said Osorio-Arellanes would be imprisoned in an Arizona facility so he could be close to his family. After he has served his sentence, Osorio-Arellanes is to be deported and banned from the U.S.
The search continues for the rest of the bandits.
Fast and Furious was intended to encourage gun dealers to sell thousands of illegal firearms so the ATF could track the buyers to Mexican drug cartels. Most of the firearms vanished, however, and several have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the border.
The ensuing scandal drove out the head of the ATF and left Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over records to a House committee.
Monday's events were a long time coming, said Robert Heyer, Terry's cousin and chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation.
"We do not celebrate this sentence today," he said after the hearing. "But we do acknowledge justice."