A Department of Homeland Security internal memo discloses seven Border Patrol agents and two supervisors were at the scene of the shooting for which officers Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are imprisoned.
The previously unpublished report's indication that supervisors were on the scene could explain why Ramos and Compean did not file a report of the Feb. 17, 2005, shooting incident on the Texas border with Mexico, about 40 miles east of El Paso. Moreover, the DHS document says all who were on location, including the supervisors, were "as guilty as those who committed the offense" because of their failure to report misconduct.
The second full paragraph of the DHS memo filed by DHS Special Agent Christopher Sanchez April 12, 2005, states:
Investigation disclosed that the following BP agents were at the location of the shooting incident, assisted in destroying evidence of the shooting, and/or knew/heard about the shooting: Oscar Juarez; Arturo Vasquez; Jose Mendoza; David Jacquez; Lance Medrano; Lorenzo Yrigoyen; Rene Mendez; Robert Arnold; and Jonathan Richards.
Of the nine listed agents, two were supervisors, Arnold and Richards. Arnold was a supervisory Border Patrol agent and Richards was a field operations supervisor, the senior BP officer on the field that day. Three of the agents, Vasquez, Jacquez and Juarez, were given immunity by Sutton's office. All three were called as witnesses by the prosecution to testify against Ramos and Compean at trial.
In a Jan. 19 exclusive interview with WND, Sutton maintained throwing away the shell casings and not filing reports were central to the reason he decided to prosecute Ramos and Compean.
While he repeated the accusation many times in the interview, here is how Sutton phrased why he thought the two officers were guilty:
What these two agents did is that they shot 15 times at an unarmed, fleeing man. And instead of doing what every other agent does, namely to explain why they decided to use deadly force, these two agents instead decided to lie about it, cover it up, destroy the evidence, pick up all the shell casings and throw them away where we couldn't find them, destroy the crime scene and then file a false report.
Yet, the DHS memo further specifies that all the mentioned agents were considered equally culpable in not reporting the shooting or in picking up the expended shells.
Investigation disclosed that none of the above agents, to include Compean and Ramos, reported the shooting or the subsequent cover up when Compean and Vasquez picked up expended brass cartridges (i.e., evidence of the shooting) and threw them away.
The DHS memo also references an Aug. 3, 2004, memo from Border Patrol Chief Luis Barker sent to all agents in the El Paso sector. The memo advises that the penalty for failing to report allegations of misconduct is disciplinary action, not criminal charges and prosecution.
DHS Special Agent Christopher Sanchez wrote:
The memorandum advised that BP employees must immediately report an allegation of misconduct and that they are subject to disciplinary action for failing to report allegations of misconduct.
The highlighted parts of this memo were printed in bold type in the original. Sanchez also documented that Compean and Ramos were among those who signed that they had read and understood the memo regarding reporting allegations of misconduct.
Andy Ramirez, who has closely followed the case as chairman of the group Friends of the Border Patrol, asks why only Ramos and Compean were prosecuted.
"All the listed agents were in the field, and the memo says they knew about the shooting, including the two supervisors," Ramirez told WND. "The Border Patrol manual specifies that only a verbal report needs to be made of shooting incidents like this. All the agents in the field that day were discussing the shooting incident, including the supervisors. What more of a verbal report needed to be made? Ramos and Compean weren't trying to hide anything, not with the field supervisors right there."
Ramirez charged that Sutton gave immunity in exchange for favorable testimony.
"Arturo Vasquez, David Jacquez and Oscar Juarez were given immunity because they were willing to tell the story to the jury that Sutton needed told," Ramirez insisted. "They all lied. Juarez even contradicted himself on the stand, changing his lies as he went along."
Why were none of the other agents charged with crimes," Ramirez continued," when the DHS memo clearly states that
in destroying evidence of the shooting?"
Ramirez said Sutton "decided to go after Ramos and Compean because they were the only two who fired their weapons."
"Then Sutton twisted the story to make it sound like Ramos and Compean were the only ones who picked up the casings," he said. "Sutton also tells the story as if Ramos and Compean were the only two on the scene; he always omits to mention that the DHS investigation clearly found all these agents and supervisors were there and knew about the shooting."
Why did Ramos and Compean pick up their expended shells?
"Sutton maintained that Ramos fired only once and hit the fleeing drug smuggler, but he doesn't accuse Ramos of picking up his shell," Ramirez clarified. "Sutton says Compean fired 14 times and that he picked up all the shells. Compean picked up the shells in disgust. He was frustrated the drug smuggler got away. What Sutton doesn't tell you is that Compean just threw the shells right back on the ground. He never put them in his pocket or carried them off the field."
Did Compean really fire 14 times without hitting the drug dealer, Aldrete-Davila?
"Truthfully, nobody knows how many times Compean fired," Ramirez told WND. "The agents are trained to drop a clip and place in a new one before all rounds are fired from the first clip if there's a break in action. It is called a hot reload. He probably fired nine rounds. Nobody really knows for sure, probably not even Compean."
Ramirez told WND Richards was promoted after the February 2005 incident to a higher supervisory rank.
"Why was Richards promoted, if failing to file a report was such a horrible offense?" Ramirez asked. "The two supervisors on the field that day didn't ask Ramos and Compean to file a written report and they didn't file a written report of their own though the firearms policy says that it is solely the supervisor's responsibility to do so, not the agent's. According to Sutton's logic, Richards should have been equally guilty of a cover-up, yet he got a promotion."
WND also notes that the first paragraph of Sanchez's memo of April 4, 2005, is similar to the first paragraph of most of the DHS investigative reports WND has seen on the case.
The first paragraph names the smuggler, "Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila," calling him an "unknown Mexican national." WND has reported the Border Patrol and DHS identified Aldrete-Davila through family connections within the Border Patrol. So, the smuggler was not truly "unknown" to either the Border Patrol or to DHS. Moreover, if Aldrete-Davila were "unknown," how could DHS know he was a "Mexican national?"
The first paragraph also states Aldrete-Davila was shot "while attempting to cross into the United States."
As WND has reported, Aldrete-Davila had entered the U.S. in a van carrying 743 pounds of marijuana. He was shot with the Border Patrol in hot pursuit, only after he abandoned the vehicle and took off on foot, not trying to enter the United States, but to escape back into Mexico.
WND pointed this out to Ramirez.
"That's the whole point," he said. "To prosecute Ramos and Compean, Sutton's office had to make Aldrete-Davila into the good guy and the Border Patrol into the bad guys. In Johnny Sutton's world, the drugs Aldrete-Davila transported illegally into the U.S. don't matter, not any more than Ramos and Compean's testimony that they saw the drug dealer point something back at them that looked like a weapon. Aldrete-Davila becomes a poor Mexican just trying to get home to his family, and Ramos and Compean become renegade police officers out that day to kill a Mexican."
"You have to understand," Ramirez continued, "that Ramos and Compean believed their supervisors knew and that the supervisers had decided not to make a report since (there was) no body, no apprehended suspect, no crime. Their supervisors were right there, and all the agents in the field that day were talking about the shooting. The worst penalty Ramos and Compean should have gotten was an administrative reprimand, just like that Aug. 3, 2004, memorandum from Chief Barker specified."
Ramirez said "every command agent in the Border Patrol has allowed Compean and Ramos to be hung out to dry when not one of them publicly corrected U.S. Attorney Sutton by clarifying the policy and its proper application. No, instead they chose to let Sutton misrepresent the facts and mislead the public."