"We'll get him back."
That's what President Bush told the family of slain Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy David March when they told him in May that the deputy's suspected killer had fled to Mexico.
Teri March says her husband was "sucker punched."
On April 29, 2002, March made a traffic stop. The alleged driver was convicted drug dealer and illegal alien Armando Garcia. "During an attempt to pat down the driver, Dave was shot at close range in the chest, in a gap where the vest did not provide protection," Teri March testified last month in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. "Before leaving the scene, Armando Garcia (allegedly) turned and shot Dave point-blank in the head."
San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox, vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, also testified. "The suspect," said Fox, "had been deported three times, was a convicted methamphetamine dealer and weapons offender and at the time of the murder was wanted on two unrelated counts of attempted murder.
"He fled to Mexico within hours of the murder," said Fox.
Garcia was home free. The U.S.-Mexican extradition treaty allows Mexico not to return suspected murderers unless U.S. prosecutors waive the death penalty. In 2001, the Mexican Supreme Court expanded the treaty, forbidding return of suspects who faced possible life sentences.
To extradite March's suspected killer, Fox testified, prosecutors would have "to reduce the charges to an assault with a deadly weapon or manslaughter or some other charge that carries a determinate sentence with a guarantee of parole. To do so would violate notions of equal protection and send a message that if you kill a police officer and can flee the jurisdiction, you will get more favorable treatment.
"Los Angeles has not submitted an extradition request," said Fox, "nor do they plan to until the 'life assurances' issue has been resolved."
Teri and Barbara and John March, the slain deputy's mother and father, want to shut down Mexico's sanctuary for murderers. "We have to stop this from happening to anybody else," Barbara March told me.