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Giffords calls for National Guard on border

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords called for the deployment of National Guard troops along the border with Mexico on Tuesday.

Giffords' action follows the killing Saturday of Robert Krentz, who was shot at his ranch northeast of Douglas.

In a letter to President Obama, the CD8 congresswoman said that "safety of U.S. citizens on American soil is under attack."

"Residents of the area are increasingly fearful of the violence that has been brought to the border and into our country by the drug cartels. The murder of Robert Krentz has heightened those fears," said the letter.

In addition to deploying guardsmen, Giffords called for additonal steps to secure the border:

  • • Deployment of more Border Patrol agents, including horseback patrols.
  • • Establishment of a Border Patrol base in the San Bernardino Valley between Douglas and the New Mexico state line.
  • • Improved communication among law enforcement agencies.
  • • Increased use of Mobile Surveillance Systems.
  • • Formation of a Joint Agency Task Force to coordinate local efforts.

Giffords has scheduled a meeting Thursday night at the Apache School in Cochise County to meet with area residents who are concerned by Krentz's killing.

Krentz, 58, was killed while working on his 35,000-acre ranch between Douglas and Apache. His brother reported him missing Saturday evening, after last having contact via radio phone at 10 a.m., according to a Cochise County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

His brother reported that all he was able to understand of the last contact were the words "illegal alien" and "hurt," said Carol Capas in a news release.

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Krentz's body was located by a Cochise County Sheriff's Office search party shortly before midnight.

He was shot while riding his Polaris ATV, said Capas. His dog was also critically injured.

A team from the sheriff's office, Border Patrol and Department of Corrections followed foot tracks from the scene 20 miles south to the Mexican border. No suspects have been apprehended in the case.

Both Giffords and Grijalva issued statements in the killing.

Giffords' statement

"The cold-blooded killing of an Arizona rancher is a sad and sobering reminder of the threats to public safety that exist in our border communities," said Giffords. "It has not yet been determined who committed this atrocity or why, but I know that federal and local authorities are mobilizing every possible resource to locate and apprehend the assailant."

The Cochise County Sheriff's Office is investigating the murder of Robert Krentz, who was shot and killed sometime Saturday on his ranch about 25 miles northeast of Douglas. Krentz, 58, was married and the father of three.

"If, as suspected, this tragedy was connected to smugglers or drug cartels, the federal government must respond appropriately," said Giffords, whose 8th Congressional District includes 114 miles of international border. "All options should be on the table, including sending more Border Patrol agents to the area and deploying the National Guard."

Krentz was part of a ranching family that stretches back more than a century to Arizona's territorial days. He has served as president of the Cochise-Graham Cattelgrowers [sic] Association and, one year ago today, the Krentz Ranch and family were inducted into the Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame.

"My heartfelt condolences go out to the Krentz family and friends as they deal with this senseless and brutal act," said Giffords. "I can't begin to imagine losing a loved one in such a tragic way. Rob Krentz was a pillar of the Cochise County ranching community. He will be greatly missed."

Grijalva's statement

"My heart goes out to Robert Krentz's family. Though I did not know Mr. Krentz, he had a reputation as a caring and kind soul. His active role as a member of the Malpai Borderlands Group, an organization of conservation-minded ranchers, is a testament to his commitment to sound approaches to the management of our borderlands. Mr Krentz's death should move us to solve our border security problems, not exploit them for extreme political agendas.

The safety of the Arizona border region is subject to multiple conflicting factors, including the prevalence of organized criminal groups with little regard for human life. We must reach across the border and develop better cooperation with Mexican authorities to address smuggling activities in these isolated regions. Congress must stand up and address comprehensive immigration reform so that our border agencies can focus on isolating and preventing criminal activities along the border."

Giffords' letter to Obama

Southern Arizonans are mourning the death of Robert Krentz, a pillar of the ranching community, who was shot and killed Saturday on his ranch northeast of Douglas, Arizona. This cold-blooded murder is a sober reminder that the safety of U.S. citizens on American soil is under attack.

I urge you to take bold and immediate action to protect our citizens by deploying the National Guard to our southern border and by taking other forceful steps in response to the senseless killing of Mr. Krentz.

The region I represent is the nation's largest and most porous sector of the U.S.-Mexico border. More drugs are seized and more illegal immigrants are apprehended in the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol than anywhere else in the country.

Every day our Border Patrol agents risk their lives in carrying out their mission in some of the harshest working conditions in the nation. Residents of the area are increasingly fearful of the violence that has been brought to the border and into our country by the drug cartels. The murder of Robert Krentz has heightened those fears. The people I represent are angry and demand action. I join with them in their call for a robust response to the killing of Robert Krentz.

The first priority of our government is the security of its citizens. We must take all necessary steps to ensure that our citizens are safe in their homes and on their land and provide our Border Patrol agents with the critical resources they need to keep our communities safe.

In addition to deploying National Guard to the border, I am requesting that you take the following action:

1. We need to let citizens know that we will deliver the level of protection that is now required. I ask you to act now to deploy more Border Patrol agents to the border. This larger Border Patrol presence should include an increase in the number of horseback units which can more easily navigate the rough terrain of the border area.
2. The rural ranch land between Douglas and the New Mexican border has become a major route for drug smuggling and we need to have a continuous Border Patrol presence in the area to combat this increased traffic. This requires that the Border Patrol establish another forward operating base in the San Bernardino Valley and as close to the border as possible. It is imperative to the safety of our border agents as well as our citizens living and working near the U.S.-Mexico border that that we stand this up immediately.

3. The efforts to locate Mr. Krentz when he was reported missing showed us once again that law enforcement agencies still do not have the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. This is a problem that I have brought to the attention of DHS in the past but it is still unresolved. I ask you to take this on as a matter of urgency. It may be that working with the local cellular phone provider we can increase the range of coverage in this area by adding to current cell phone tower systems. This problem cannot be allowed to continue.

4. Mobile Surveillance Systems have proven to be an effective asset to the Border Patrol. Reports from ranchers and Border Patrol agents indicate that where these units have been set up, the smuggling traffic dramatically decreases and apprehensions increase. I request that several Mobile Surveillance System units be deployed to the area that is currently under siege by smugglers.

5. There are many law enforcement agencies in the area who are working hard to stop the smugglers and protect the citizens. What is missing is a coordinated effort at the local level. I strongly recommend that you establish a Joint Agency Task Force that will unite the efforts of law enforcement personnel on the ground. We have the ability now to coordinate intelligence gathering and dissemination in the new Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center. What is still needed is a coordinated multiagency response on the border where the smugglers enter our country.

In addition to the requests I have sent to you in this letter, there may be recommendations that will come from citizens who are on the front lines of this crisis. Tomorrow night I am meeting with area ranchers at the Apache School in Cochise County to hear their concerns and recommendations about what actions should be considered in the wake of the tragic death of Robert Krentz. I will send you a further communication following that meeting.

Unfortunately we were unable to apprehend the person who killed Mr. Krentz before he crossed the border into Mexico. Mexican officials must continue this search for the assailant and I ask that you secure their full cooperation and assistance in capturing this individual and extraditing him to the United States to face justice.

Thank you for your leadership and prompt response to my requests for action.

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Arizona Farming & Ranching Hall of Fame

Krentz in 2008.