Suspect extradited from Mexico to U.S. in border agent’s slaying
A man charged in the murder of Brian A. Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death was at the center of the Operation Fast and Furious investigation, has been returned to the United States and is scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday, according to federal government sources and the family of the slain officer.
Lionel Portillo-Meza, also known as Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, was arrested in Mexico on Sept. 6, 2012, and had been in custody awaiting extradition. He is accused of being among the five men in the “Rip-Crew,” charged with killing Terry during a 2010 shootout in Arizona near the border with Mexico.
Robert Heyer, Brian Terry’s cousin and chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation, confirmed that he was notified by officials that Portillo-Meza was extradited Tuesday night from Mexico City and was now in the United States. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Tucson on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have been anticipating this extradition and we are very pleased,” Heyer said. “It’s been a long time. You know, he’s been sitting in jail in Mexico for almost two years. It took a long time for him to be extradited. But we’re very, very thankful that the Mexican government has continued to show cooperation and pursuit of justice of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.”
Terry, 40, died in shootout in the desert brush near Rio Rico on Dec. 14, 2010.
Two guns found at the scene were bought by a member of a gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored in the “Fast and Furious” investigation. United States authorities have been criticized for allowing informants to walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with weapons rather than immediately arresting them.
Terry’s killing unraveled the Justice Department-sanctioned “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation and triggered one of the biggest political controversies of President Obama’s first term. The scandal drove out the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and led to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. behind held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over records.
In addition to Portillo-Meza, suspect Ivan Soto-Barraza has been in custody in Mexico awaiting extradition since 2013.
Manuel Osorio-Arellanes has been sentenced to 30 years after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the case.
Two others, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga and Heraclio “Laco” Osorio-Arellanes are still at large in Mexico. Each has a $250,000 reward on them.
Rito Osorio-Arellanes, Manuel’s brother, was a member of the crew but was in U.S. custody at the time of Terry’s murder. He was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Serrano reported from Washington, D.C., and Carcamo from Tucson. Staff writer Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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