Search continues for suspect in agent death

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Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, 40, who was shot and killed late Tuesday near Rio Rico By Bob Richardson Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, 40, who was shot and killed late Tuesday near Rio Rico By Bob Richardson
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

A massive search for a fifth suspect in the Tuesday night shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent will continue Thursday morning in Santa Cruz County.  That, while Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, will visit with Border Patrol officials in Nogales.

The agent was shot and killed late Tuesday in a canyon west of Interstate 19 just west of Rio Rico.

Authorities have identified him as Brian A. Terry, 40.  He had been with the Border Patrol for three years and was assigned to the Naco station.  He lived in Sierra Vista.

The FBI in Phoenix says Terry and other agents encountered a group of border bandits in Peck Canyon.   Shooting broke out and Terry was hit. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Tucson, but died either en route or at the hospital.

Four of the five suspects were arrested at the scene.  A fifth escaped.  The FBI says one of the suspects was shot and injured.  Wednesday afternoon, Santa Cruz County deputies say a man matching the description of the fifth suspect was found along I-19 south of Rio Rico, but after several hours of questioning, they determined he was not connected to the incident.

Both DPS and Border Patrol agents placed agents all along Highway 289 working the theory the suspect would flee south and have to cross the highway at some point. 

Terry is the third agent of the Customs and Border Protection agency to die in the line of duty this year.  The agency says 34 agents have died in the past 15 years.

A spokesperson for DHS said Thursday morning that Secretary Napolitano would be in Southern Arizona on Thursday and Friday, but is not planning any public appearances.

T.J. Bonner, the leader of a union representing Border Patrol agents, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Terry was with three other agents in a remote area looking for the bandits, who target illegal immigrants for robbery. 

The Washington, D.C. office of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a statement from Commissioner Alan Bersin expressing support for the Terry family and pledging to do all possible to bring the suspects to justice.

Janet Napolitano, former Arizona Governor and currently Secretary of Homeland Security, said, "The fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry last night is an unconscionable act of violence against the men and women of the Border Patrol and all those who serve and defend our country."

U.S. Senator John McCain issued a statement Wednesday morning, saying in part, "This is yet another reminder of the dangers the men and women of the Border Patrol face every day as they put their lives on the line to protect the American people."

Both Southern Arizona member of congress issued statements.  Gabrielle Giffords from District 8, called the death "senseless", and said, "What additional tragedies must Southern Arizonans endure before my colleagues in Congress and the Obama administration address this crisis with the full weight of our resources?  We must act and we must act now."

District 7 Congressman Raul Grijalva also called on agencies on both sides of the border to work to stem the tide of violence.  "Neither we nor our neighbors want to see the border region become more dangerous," he said.  "This crime should not deter the many peaceful efforts underway to improve the quality of life for people on both sides of the border".

The Arizona Cattlemen's Association, which has been active in border issues, expressed its sadness in Agent Terry's death, and said in a statement, "Each day a special group of men and women put their lives on the line for the safety and security of this country.  The agents of the United States Border Patrol are normally rancher's first responders and usually the only law enforcement on our ranches across the Southern Arizona border."

The area where the shooting occured is a known drug and alien trafficking "highway" to the north. 

The Border Patrol is asking anyone with any information about the shooting to call 1 800 872 7435. It says all calls will be answered and the person calling will remain anonymous.