High-ranking officials in Texas have offered their support to the family of slain U.S. border agent Brian Terry. Breitbart Texas’ Bob Price reported that the trial of the men accused of murdering the agent that began this week has been heartbreaking for the Terry family.
The sister of Terry told Breitbart Texas in an exclusive interview on Thursday, “Yesterday was a very heart-wrenching day for my family,” Kelly Terry-Willis said in an interview. She added, “To see pictures of Brian in lifeless form and to hear details from agents who were with Brian when he was killed took our breath away.”
Breitbart Texas obtained a statement from the Texas Governor’s office, “Governor Abbott’s thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family and he looks forward to justice being served in this case.”
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also responded to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas. “My heart and prayers go out to the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry during this difficult time,” he wrote on Thursday.
“As the brave men and women in law enforcement risk their lives daily in the line of duty we are reminded why we must secure our border,” Governor Patrick continued. “We cannot allow criminals, gang members, and potential terrorists to enter our country. We nearly tripled our spending in Texas on border security in the Senate this year as I promised in the campaign. We did this because the Federal Government is not doing the job. Brian Terry would likely be alive today if the Federal Government was committed to protecting the border and their officers as we are in Texas.”
Brian Terry was murdered on the night of December 14, 2010, near the Arizona/Mexico border. Terry and members of his BORTAC (Border Patrol Tactical Unit) team came upon a rip crew. BORTAC is the tactical/special response arm of the United States Border Patrol. Rip crews are groups of Mexican bandits that roam the mountains of southern Arizona. The bandits find cartel drug or human smuggling convoys and then rob them. A gun battle ensued with bandits and Terry was shot and later died.
During opening testimony, prosecutors said Ivan Soto Barraza and Lionel Portillo-Meza, also known as Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, killed Terry near Rio Rico in 2010, according to KVOA in Tucson. The defense claims that they were simply defending themselves after Border Patrol agents opened fire on them.
Two of the guns found at the scene of the gunfight were eventually tied to the Fast and Furious Operation.
Breitbart Texas’ Ildefonso Ortiz previously reported that the judge ordered the attorneys in the case not to mention the Fast and Furious Operation during the trial.
Another Terry family member, Robert Heyer, told reporters in Tucson, “Our focus is the successful conviction of these two defendants. If that means, with respect to this particular prosecution of these two defendants that Operation ‘Fast and Furious’ remain separate, then the Terry family is fine with that.” Heyer also serves as chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation.
The brother of Brian Terry, Kent Terry, has been very critical of the federal government’s handling of Fast and Furious. Breitbart News reported in February 2014 that Kent Terry sent then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder a blistering letter questioning why, four years after the death of their brother, they did not have the truth about Operation Fast and Furious. He questioned why Holder had not held the Department of Justice, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) accountable for the scandal.
John Dodson, the ATF agent who blew the whistle on the Justice Department’s gun-trafficking operation said in 2013 that the FBI played a key role in events leading to Terry’s murder, as reported by Breitbart News. His comments expand upon what he wrote in his book, The Unarmed Truth – My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious.
Heyer said this week that it is very difficult for the family to sit there and view the graphic images of their murdered loved one and to hear the details of that horrific night. He said that despite that pain, the family’s primary interest is that justice be served.
Members of the family traveled to Tucson, Arizona for the trial from their homes in Michigan and other parts of the United States.
“It was grueling,” Terry-Willis said of the trial’s opening, “but we stayed strong. It’s not easy to sit in a courtroom, feet from the defense. Today, we should hear more testimony from Brian’s other teammates that were out there that horrific night.”
A former Border Patrol agent broke down in tears in the Tucson courtroom on the second day of trial, as reported by the Associated Press. He described how he desperately tried to save Terry’s life. William Castano testified that the agents yelled “policia”and later fired beanbag rounds from shotguns at the smugglers. A gunfight erupted and Terry was shot in the back. Castano described how he tried to locate the wound using a flashlight. “I put my hand all over his body to see if I could feel blood,” he reportedly testified. Castano said that Terry lost consciousness and agents worked together to try to carry his 215-pound muscular body down a hill.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2