UPDATE: Mindy Blake spoke with Santa Cruz County Sheriff deputy Tony Estrada, who said the person apprehended yesterday is not the fifth suspect involved in the killing of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
NOGALES, AZ (KOLD) - Law enforcement officials continue to search for a fifth suspect in the fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent near Rio Rico.
Agent Brian Terry, 40, was shot when he encountered a group of suspects Tuesday night, according to a release from the Border Patrol.
Terry was with a team of agents in a remote desert area when a gunfight broke out with the suspects, a union leader representing the Border Patrol said.
National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner says the agents were trying to catch suspected bandits, who target illegal immigrants for robbery.
Four of those suspects were arrested. Authorities say a man matching the fifth suspect's description was picked up along I-19, but they're not confirming whether he is the person they've been looking for.
Border Patrol officials and officers with the Department of Public Safety are scouring the area with K9 units in an effort to find that suspect.
The incident happened just after 11 p.m. in the Peck Canyon area just north of Nogales.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations is now involved in the case and is looking into the agent's death, Border Patrol spokesman Eric Cantu said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family for their tragic loss," said CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. "Our commitment to Agent Terry and his family is that we will do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for this despicable act."
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who requested 1,200 National Guard troops for the border in May, said more must be done to ensure the safety of those who work and live near the border.
"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."
Sen. John McCain, whose request for 6,000 troops was rebuffed, also called for more resources along the border.
"The increased violence . . . demands that Congress provide the necessary resources and personnel to ensure the safety of all Americans, especially border patrol agents stationed on the border, and fulfill the Federal government's responsibility to secure our border."
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva called for stronger efforts to quell border violence.
"Neither we nor our neighbors want to see the border region become more dangerous, either for civilians or the brave men and women who protect them," Grijalva 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."
Peck Canyon is notorious for smuggling. The Tucson Weekly reported in November that the terrain makes border enforcement difficult.
The area today is still extremely remote, largely unpopulated and federally managed. Countless smuggling trails cross the terrain, many leading into the mostly road-less Atascosas. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony) Estrada says these mountains are so rough that on some occasions, his investigators, unable to reach areas by ATV or even horseback, have had to be dropped in by helicopter. The terrain puts law enforcement in a reactive mode.
"Once smugglers hit that country, you have no capability of knowing where they're going, and they have days to move a load through," says Keith Graves, who worked for 10 years as Nogales district ranger for the Coronado National Forest. He is now a liaison between the Forest Service and the Secure Border Initiative. "Even if they trip a sensor, there are only certain things Border Patrol can do. They usually have to wait until the smugglers come out."
Terry is the third agent killed on duty this year. Mark Van Doren was killed in May in an auto accident in Texas, and Michael V. Gallagher was killed by a drunk driver in September on the Tohono O'odham Reservation near Casa Grande.
Since 1919, 111 Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty, most in vehicle accidents.
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