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Mexican teen admits killing U.S. Border Patrol agent

The 17-year-old pleads guilty to fatally shooting Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr., who was lured out of his vehicle in July while patrolling a remote area east of San Diego.

November 21, 2009|By Richard Marosi
  • A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter flies over federal investigators combing through scrub brush where Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr., 30, was shot and killed July 23. A father of two, he was the first Border Patrol agent to be killed in the line of duty in nearly a decade.
A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter flies over federal investigators combing… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from San Diego — A Mexican teenager pleaded guilty Friday to fatally shooting a U.S. Border Patrol agent last summer while attempting to rob him of government property in a remote area east of San Diego.

Christian Daniel Castro-Alvarez, 17, and an unspecified number of co-conspirators crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and lured Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr. out of his vehicle while he was on routine patrol, according to the plea agreement filed in federal court in San Diego.

Rosas, 30, was shot multiple times by Castro-Alvarez and one or more co-conspirators. Rosas suffered four gunshot wounds to the head and four more to his neck and torso.

Castro-Alvarez voluntarily surrendered in August to U.S. authorities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The other suspects remain at large, according to the FBI, the lead U.S. agency on the case.

"Today's guilty plea makes it clear that those who harm our brave men and women in uniform will be swiftly brought to justice and punished," said Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. "I am confident that any others involved in Agent Rosas' tragic death will also be held responsible."

Rosas, a father of two, was the first border agent to be shot and killed in the line of duty in nearly a decade. He was patrolling alone near Campo on the night of July 23 in a rugged area 60 miles east of San Diego where drug- and human-smugglers frequently operate.

Castro-Alvarez was part of a group of bandits or smugglers operating out of the nearby Mexican community of Jardines Del Rincon, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.

The group crossed the border intending to steal Rosas' night-vision goggles, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the case. Rosas was killed during the ensuing struggle.

The assailants stole Rosas' radio and weapon, along with his night-vision equipment.

The shooting prompted a large-scale manhunt on both sides of the border. Mexican authorities permitted U.S. canine units and helicopters to cross the border in their hunt for suspects.

Mexican police arrested several suspects in the hours after the shooting, including one man running from the area with a 9-millimeter handgun tucked in his belt. But none of those suspects apparently was connected with the crime.

It is unclear how Castro-Alvarez was identified as a suspect and how he ended up turning himself in at the border, but U.S. officials said Mexican authorities have provided significant assistance throughout the investigation.

Castro-Alvarez, who will be sentenced as an adult, faces a maximum of life in prison on charges of murdering a federal officer in perpetration of a robbery and aiding and abetting. Sentencing is scheduled for February. His San Diego-based attorney, Ezekiel E. Cortez, was not available for comment.

Since the incident, the Border Patrol has beefed up security in the area and illegal activity has declined significantly, authorities said.

richard.marosi@latimes.com

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