Thursday, April 29, 2010
City News Service contributed to this report.
A Mexican teen who was in a group that lured a U.S. Border Patrol agent out of his vehicle near Campo and shot him to death was sentenced today to 40 years in federal prison. The agents' family and more than 100 of his colleagues packed the federal court in San Diego Tuesday.
Christian Daniel Castro-Alvarez pleaded guilty Nov. 20 to a murder charge in the death last July 23 of Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr.
Castro was 16 when he fired one of nine shots in the scuffle that killed the agent.
He surrendered last November.
In his plea, the defendant admitted illegally crossing the border with two companions and trying to rob Rosas. Castro says he was threatened with death if he didn't participate.
The agent was lured out of his vehicle by Castro-Alvarez and unidentified co-conspirators and, during the ensuing struggle, the 30-year-old agent was shot eight times in the head, neck and upper body, according to prosecutors.
Britt Craig, a member of the Minuteman group that monitors the border, said it was "ludicrous" that Castro didn't know the identity of his co-conspirators.
"He knows who did it," Craig told reporters outside court.
Rosas, a three-year agent, left behind a wife and two children, a son about 3 and a daughter about 2. Agent Rosa's wife and sisters choked back tears to tell the court the loss has ruined their lives.
"I know nothing can change what happened, but please give Mr. Castro the maximum," Rosas' wife told U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz.
The victim's sister, Arlene, said her brother was her backbone.
"I have lost hope," she said. "How brutal and evil can this person be?"
Shawn Moran of the Border Patrol Union says Castro's sentence is not enough.
"If the criminal organizations in Mexico are willing to wage war against our agents, then we need to be able to do that back," said Moran. "And until we get the weaponry and the personnel, this kind of thing is a risk that we're gonna see again and again."
Castro wept into his hands as his attorney, Ezekiel Cortez, addressed the judge.
"Danny Castro lives with this every day and every night. He suffers deeply," Cortez said.
Rosas, from El Centro, worked as a reserve officer in the El Centro Police Department, then as a state prison guard before joining the Border Patrol.
Two other suspects are believed to be in Mexico. The FBI says the investigation is ongoing.