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The Border Patrol Inquisition
BE A BORDER Patrol agent: Do your job, go to prison. That's how the job must look to agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
In February 2005, the agents tried to stop a van driven by drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila near the Mexico border. After a scuffle with Compean, Aldrete-Davila fled on foot. Ramos says he saw a gun -- which the smuggler denies. Both agents fired at Aldrete-Davila, who fell, but continued his escape across the border. After he got away, Ramos and Compean filed a report on the 743 pounds of marijuana they found in the van, but not on the gunfire. As it turns out, Ramos had shot Aldrete-Davila in the butt. A Homeland Security agent heard about the episode, went to Mexico and offered Aldrete-Davila immunity, if he testified against Ramos and Compean.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, a Bush appointee, prosecuted the agents. In March, a jury found them guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime, obstructing justice, lying about the incident and willfully violating Aldrete-Davila's Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal seizure. Because there was gunfire, the mandatory-minimum prison sentence the agents will serve is 10 years. The U.S. Probation Office in El Paso, Texas, has recommended 20 years -- 20 years away from their wives and children, and among the type of people they've put behind bars.
As will be demonstrated by the summary below, the defendants were prosecuted because they had fired their weapons at a man who had attempted to surrender by holding his open hands in the air, at which time Agent Compean attempted to hit the man with the butt of Compean’s shotgun, causing the man to run in fear of what the agents would do to him next. Although both agents saw that the man was not armed, the agents fired at least 15 rounds at him while he was running away from them, hitting him once.