By GREG MORAN, UNION-TRIBUNE
SAN DIEGO â€” As scores of grim-faced Border Patrol agents looked on, a 17-year-old Mexican was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the ambush murder of Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas Jr. in July.
The sentence handed to Christian Daniel Castro Alvarez by U.S. District Judge James Lorenz came at the end of an emotional hearing, and during a time when the national debate about illegal immigration and how to handle it has intensified.
Castro pleaded guilty for his role in the murder of Rosas, 30, who was married and the father of two young children. His lawyer, Ezekiel Cortez, said Castro did not fire the fatal shots at Rosas, but that two others who are in Mexico and participated in the crime did.
That was small comfort to Rosalie Rosas, the wife of the slain officer, who told Lorenz that the killing of her husband has devastated the family.
â€œOur future was taken from all of us,â€ she said.
According to court records, Castro told authorities he and unnamed co-conspirators planned that night to cross into the U.S. from Mexico with weapons and rob a Border Patrol agent.
They lured Rosas by leaving footprints, making noises, even shaking bushes in the brush near Campo. When Rosas investigated, he was ambushed, disarmed and later shot to death, court records say.
No other arrests have been announced in the case, and no testimony at the hearing or any court records indicated why Castro turned himself in to authorities last summer.
About 100 Border Patrol agents in green uniforms filled the courtroom and lined the hallway outside to observe the court proceeding.
Rosas was killed July 23 while on patrol near Shockey Truck Trail. The incident began about 9 p.m., when he reported that he was tracking a group of illegal immigrants near the fence that marks the international border.
According to court records, he asked for backup from other agents and then his radio went dead. Agents in the area then heard gunshots.
When they got to the place Rosas had radioed from, they found his vehicle with the engine running and lights on but no one inside. Agents found Rosasâ€™ flashlight about 15 yards from the vehicle and they found him about 10 yards from the fence.
He had been shot many times, including several rounds to the head.
A sentencing memorandum from prosecutors said investigators were able to follow a blood trail back to and under the fence. They collected samples and were able to get a DNA profile.
Castro surrendered at the border in August. He agreed to be charged as an adult, and pleaded guilty Nov. 20 to murder of a federal officer during a robbery, as well as aiding and abetting.
The court records show that after Rosas was lured into the trap, Castro held Rosas at gunpoint while the others he was with went to his vehicle. Castro said that at one point Rosas grabbed the gun and the two struggled.
Castro called to his companions for help, and fired a single shot. The others returned and opened fire.
One shot hit Castro in the hand. An autopsy report said Rosas was hit nine times, repeatedly from behind and then when he was on the ground.
Cortez said in court papers that Castro was pressed into participating in the ambush under threats from the other two men. The documents said Castroâ€™s parents had abandoned him when he was 12, he had a sixth-grade education and lived in a one-room shack inÂ Tijuana.
In a letter to the judge that Lorenz read aloud, Castro said he was sorry. â€œI never wanted things to be this way,â€ he said.
Rosalie Rosas reminded the packed courtroom that neither she nor her husband expected things to end this way, either. Robert Rosas Jr. was a popular figure in El Centro, where he grew up. His father died in a car accident when Rosas was a toddler, she said.
â€œA broken home,â€ she said, â€œis what we said we never wanted for our children.â€
Castro was given credit under federal sentencing rules for accepting responsibility for the crime early and for cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation. That reduced his potential sentence from life to a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Government prosecutors argued that a sentence of 40 years was appropriate, since it would punish Castro and serve as a deterrent to others who might attack agents. Lorenz agreed, saying that the â€œcoldblooded killingâ€ had a chilling effect along the border.
Agents patrolling the shadowy terrain will continue to wonder whether more ambushes will occur or whether they will be attacked by those whose footprints they are tracking in the darkness.
Outside of court, Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 1613 that represents agents in the San Diego area, said he doubted the sentence would deter violence along the border.
â€œI donâ€™t think the cartels care,â€ he said.
Don’t let the MSM censor your news as America becomes Great Again. Over 500,000 Americans receive our daily dose of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness along with Breaking News direct to their inbox—and you can too. Sign up to receive news and views from The 1776Coalition!
We know how important your privacy is and your information is SAFE with us. We’ll never sell
your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time directly from your inbox.