Crime and Violence

Mexico captures third suspect in murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry

Four of the suspects in the Brian Terry case are seen here: (left to right) Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Lionel Portillo-Meza (photo unavailable). Photo: FBI
Four of the suspects in the Brian Terry case are pictured here: (left to right) Jesús Rosario Favela-Astorga, Iván Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Lionel Portillo-Meza (photo unavailable). Not pictured is Manuel Osorio Arrelanes, who has already pled guilty to first-degree murder. Photo: FBI

09/24/13 (written by gehrenberg) – Mexican authorities have announced the capture of a third suspect in the 2010 murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Police in the Northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa said that Iván Soto Barraza was captured in a joint operation between State Ministerial Police (Policía Ministerial del Estado, PME) and Interpol; a government spokesperson also reported that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collaborated in the arrest. Soto Barraza was captured in Sinaloa at 11:00pm on September 11 on the road connecting the city of El Fuerte with the community of Ocolome. He was then transferred to a prison in Hermosillo, Sonora, where he awaits extradition to the United States. Soto Barraza is the third of allegedly five suspects that authorities believe were involved in Terry’s killing. One of the men already in custody, Manuel Osorio Arrelanes, pled guilty in October 2012 to first-degree murder, just a month after Mexican authorities arrested a second suspect, Lionel Portillo Meza.

Following Soto Barraza’s arrest, Terry’s cousin delivered the following statement on behalf of his family: “Brian’s family is pleased to hear of another arrest and we remain hopeful that two additional fugitives believed to be in Mexico will be arrested. Questions remain unanswered about the death of Brian, including details on the failed gun trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.”

Not only did Terry’s murder strain on U.S.-Mexico relations given the high profile nature of the killing, it also brought the controversial Operation Fast and Furious to light. The operation was a multi-year undertaking by the U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in Arizona and Washington, DC, to monitor the flow of nearly 2,000 assault rifles and firearms illegally purchased in the United States and smuggled across the border to Mexican drug cartels. The situation spun out of control when hundreds of the firearms went unaccounted for, two of which were found at the scene of Terry’s death, serving as evidence of the instability of the initiative and leading to intense political backlash against the U.S. operation.

The capture of a high profile suspect as Soto Barraza, for whom U.S. authorities had posted a $250,000 (USD) reward for information relating to his whereabouts, is welcomed news for U.S.-Mexico relations, a relationship that has been increasingly troubled, particularly since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012. The most recent bilateral rift came after a Mexican court released Rafael Caro Quintero in August, infuriating U.S. authorities. He had only served 28 of his 40 years sentenced in prison for the kidnapping, torture, and killing of undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.


“ISSA says Justice Department is obstructing ‘Fast and Furious’ investigation.” Justice in Mexico Project. February 3, 2012.

“14 officials held accountable as DOJ concludes investigation on Fast and Furious.” Justice in Mexico Project. September 22, 2012.

“Defendant Pleads Guilty to First-Degree Murder Charge.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. October 30, 2012.

“Godfather of Mexican drug trafficking released from prison.” Justice in Mexico Project. August 12, 2013.

Graham, Dave, Gaynor, Tim, and David Schwartz. “RPT-México captura a tercer hombre ligado a muerte de agente patrulla fronteriza EEUU.” Reuters. September 19, 2013.

Graham, Dave, Gaynor, Tim, and David Schwartz. “Mexico captures third man linked to killing of U.S. border agent.” Reuters. September 20, 2013.

“Detienen a sinaloense por muerte de polícia fronterizo.” El Debate. September 22, 2013.

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