A Mexican official said on Friday her government wants Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly to face trial on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of an illegal immigrant on Kelly’s ranch.
Kelly is accused of shooting Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, a Mexican national, on Jan. 30 on Kelly’s property near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Kelly, 73, was released last month after being held on a $1 million bond.
He was initially charged with first-degree murder, but the charge was later reduced to second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
Vanessa Calva, Mexico’s head of consular protection, said the Mexican government believes Kelly should face the first-degree murder charge, according to Fox News.
She said Cuen-Butimea was unarmed, fleeing and shot in the back.
“George Kelly opened fire on the group that Mr. Cuen was a part of. Not one person was armed. There was not an element of imminent danger. And proof of this is that the perpetrator called migration officials on different occasions and not … 911,” she said, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Kelly called the U.S. Border Patrol up to 40 times in January alone regarding illegal aliens who had encroached on his property after crossing the border.
Calva also cited a self-published novel Kelly wrote about conflict on the border.
“We know that the defendant advocates political actions that exalt vigilante practices,” she said. “He has a published book that is still for sale that reflects this type of ideology and advocates that people take justice into their own hands.”
Kelly’s attorney, Brenna Larkin, has stated in court filings that Kelly feared for his life as a number of armed men walked through his property on Jan. 30. The attorney also said Kelly heard a gunshot.
“The leader of the armed group of men saw Mr. Kelly and pointed an AK-47 right at him,” Larkin wrote. “Mr. Kelly, fearing for his life and safety, fired several shots from his rifle, hoping to scare them away from him, his wife, his animals, and his home.”
“As he shot, Mr. Kelly took care to aim well over the heads of the armed group of men. The group then began running into the desert surrounding his home.”
At a recent hearing, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jorge Ainza testified that he found AK-47 shell casings on Kelly’s back porch and eight additional casings elsewhere, according to the Daily Star.
Ainza said Border Patrol agents told him the area around Kelly’s ranch is plagued with high crime and that there has been an increase in drug trafficking.
He said he was told by an agent that armed individuals had been seen in the area before the Jan. 30 incident.
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