PHOENIX (AP) — A firefight that killed a Border Patrol agent near the Arizona-Mexico border in 2010 erupted as armed men who had sneaked into the country to rob marijuana smugglers walked in a single-file line toward a group of agents, according an account given by prosecutors of the shooting that revealed the government's botched "Fast and Furious" gun-smuggling investigation.
Agents sitting atop a small hill and using night-vision gear could see that rip-off crew members were carrying rifles and waited until the men were close before an agent yelled "police" in Spanish. The gunmen turned toward the agents and started to fire, setting off an exchange of gunfire that killed Agent Brian Terry and wounded acknowledged rip-off crew member Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, prosecutors said.
"I'm hit," Terry told fellow agents, noting that he couldn't feel his legs, according to court records filed by the agents who were with Terry during the gun fight. Terry lost consciousness and died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.
The account marks the most complete publicly available summary by prosecutors of the Dec. 14, 2010, firefight in a canyon just north of the Arizona border city of Nogales. In the past, federal authorities repeatedly declined to disclose information about Terry's death.
Prosecutors recounted details of the shooting in a court record filed in advance of a sentencing hearing Monday for Osorio-Arellanes, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Terry's death. The filing was accompanied by written accounts from three Border Patrol agents who were with Terry as he died. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence for Osorio-Arellanes.
Clay Hernandez, Osorio-Arellanes' lawyer, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Terry's stepmother, Carolyn Terry, said Osorio-Arellanes' upcoming sentencing won't give the family any closure. "We don't know what happened to him out there that night," she said, noting her family and their attorney are still looking for answers.
Federal authorities who conducted "Fast and Furious" have faced tough criticism for allowing suspected straw gun buyers for a smuggling ring to walk away from gun shops in Arizona with weapons, rather than arrest them and seize the guns.
Two rifles bought by a gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored through "Fast and Furious" were found at the scene of the firefight. But authorities have declined to say whether the murder weapon in Terry's death was linked to a purchase from the investigation.
The guilty plea by Osorio-Arellanes in October 2012 marked the biggest conviction to date in a case that embarrassed the federal government and prompted a series of congressional investigations. Members of the gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored in the "Fast and Furious" investigation have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Osorio-Arellanes, who is from El Fuerte in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, suffered gunshot wounds to his torso and was unable to flee. But authorities say four other Mexican men charged in Terry's death ran away to Mexico. Two have since been arrested and are undergoing extradition proceedings, while two others — including Osorio-Arellanes' brother — remain fugitives in Mexico, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say the evidence shows the rip-off crew members knew they were firing at law enforcement officers.
Osorio-Arellanes has denied hearing the agents announce their presence and denied firing at the agents. Prosecutors said there's circumstantial evidence to support Osorio-Arellanes' claim that he didn't shoot Terry said.