By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A former Mexican police officer, wanted in his home country for allegedly shooting to death a man nearly 15 years ago with his government-issued AR-15 rifle, has been arrested in Colorado, U.S. immigration officials said on Friday.
Jesus Gabriel Ibarra-Espinoza, 41, was detained this week in the Denver suburb of Centennial where he was living with his wife and family, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.
Ibarra-Espinoza was wanted for the Jan. 2000 shooting death of Adrian Almodovar-Villalba in Mocorito, Mexico.
According to a witness, Ibarra-Espinoza was working as a police officer for the city of Mocorito when he was assigned to a security detail at a local party. The witness said he appeared intoxicated when he approached Almodovar-Villalba and another man who were conversing on a street, ICE said.
A confrontation ensued, and Ibarra-Espinoza allegedly shot Almodivar-Villalba to death with his police-issue rifle.
"Ibarra-Espinoza fled the scene and eventually abandoned his assigned weapons, police vehicle and police gear near the downtown area of Culiacan," the statement said.
Culiacan is the largest city in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa.
A month later, Ibarra-Espinoza illegally entered the United States under an alias and was sent back to Mexico, U.S. authorities said.
Ibarra-Espinoza returned to the United States, and ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said he told agents after his arrest that he had entered the country illegally in May 2000 near Calexico, California.
Ibarra-Espinoza is set to appear before an immigration judge who will decide whether to initiate deportation proceedings, Rusnok said.
He was apprehended by agents of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations. Since Oct. 2009, the unit has removed more than 720 foreign fugitives wanted in other counties for serious crimes including rape, murder and kidnapping, the agency said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)