Mexican migrant takes the stand in trial of Arizona rancher
A Mexican man testified Friday about the moment a fellow immigrant was shot dead at his ranch in Arizona for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
A man, referred to by the initials DRR to protect his identity, said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter that gunshots rang out without warning and because of this, his group had no idea where they were coming from.
“I did nothing. I saw Gabriel,” he said, referring to the murdered 48-year-old man, Gabriel Quen Buitimea. “He held his chest and said, ‘Got it.’ He rolled his eyes and fell.”
The testimony was obtained during a hearing in Nogales, Arizona, in the courtroom of George Alan Kelly, a 74-year-old rancher accused of murdering Kun Buitimere.
Kelly was charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault against two immigrants, including one who testified on Friday. submitted.
Kelly was initially charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors dropped the charges. They didn’t explain why at the hearing.
Larkin asked for the hearing to be postponed in preparation for new charges, but Justice of the Peace Emilio G. Velázquez denied her request.
The hearing in the Santa Cruz County Court of Justice was also intended to determine the material factual issues of the case and allow Kelly’s defense to summon witnesses. As of mid-afternoon, only her DRR of immigration and county sheriff detectives were testifying.
DRR testified that he and Cuen-Buitimea had paid for cross-border transit from Nogales, Mexico, on January 30, heading for Phoenix. He also said neither had a weapon.Cuen-Buitimea wore a green camouflage bag on his backpack and belt.
According to DRR, they were three to four yards (meters) from the road when they suddenly heard gunshots. It was around the fourth round that Cuen-Buitimea was injured, but in all he testified that 15 or 16 shots were fired.
“I ran 20 meters (22 yards) when I turned around to see him (Kelly),” said DRR. I was able to jump and jump over the wall back to Mexico.”
Prosecutors allege Kelly fired an AK-47 rifle at about eight unarmed migrants he met at his ranch outside Nogales, dying behind a man who tried to flee. Two of his migrants later told authorities that Kelly also shot them, but they were not shot and managed to escape over the fence to Mexico.
Prosecutors say Cuen-Buitimea lived just south of the Nogales border. U.S. court records show he was convicted of illegal immigration several times, most recently he was deported to Mexico in 2016. DRR also testified that he crossed the border illegally on numerous occasions.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Kimberly Hanley said her office, the courthouse, and the sheriff’s office were all “several unsettling incidents of a threatening nature that appeared to represent a continuing threat to the safety of victims.” I have received the communication,” he said.
In an argument against the reduction of Kelly’s US$1 million cash bond, Hanley said earlier this week that the rancher’s comments contradicted what eyewitnesses in the group told law enforcement, and that his story could be reinforced over time. It has changed greatly.
Larkin states that Kelly did not shoot Quen Buitimere, but fired warning shots earlier in the day over smugglers carrying AK-47 rifles and backpacks on his property.
Velázquez Wednesday ordered that Kelly’s bonds be changed from cash to guaranteed bonds. Bond posted later that day.
The shooting has stirred emotion as the national debate over border security heats up ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Less than six months later, a prison warden and his brother were arrested in a shooting in West Texas that left one immigrant dead and another wounded. Michael Shepherd and Mark Shepherd, both in his 60s, have been charged with manslaughter in his September shooting in El Paso County.
Authorities say the twin brothers stopped a truck near the town about 25 miles (40 km) from the border and opened fire on a group of migrants as they were getting water. A male migrant died and a woman suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
A GoFundMe campaign to pay for Kelly’s legal fees was stopped and the money was returned to the donors due to the seriousness of the allegations, according to the platform. But GiveSendGo, which claims to be a Christian fundraising platform, has several campaigns to raise defense funds, including one that raised over $300,000.
Kelly appears to have explored border ranching life in her self-published novel Far Beyond the Border Fence, described by Amazon.com as “a contemporary novel that brings Mexico’s border/drug conflict into the 21st century.” increase.
Associated Press writer Terry Tan contributed to this report.