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Remaining member of 'rip crew' linked to slaying of Brian Terry arrested

The final member of the five-man "rip crew" allegedly responsible for the 2010 murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was arrested in Mexico on Saturday, U.S. officials confirmed Monday.

Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 37, was arrested in Mexico on Saturday without incident, and faces extradition to the United States to face first-degree murder charges for the his alleged role in the shooting death of Terry, who was killed during a nighttime firefight in rugged terrain near Rio Rico, south of Tucson, on Dec. 14, 2010.

Terry and three other BP agents, each members of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit had set up a position in a remote area as part of an operation to apprehend a "rip crew"— a group who robbed drug smugglers at gunpoint — and encountered the five men, some of whom were armed with AK-47-style rifles, according to court documents filed in previous trials.

As the men approached, one the agents yelled "policia," or "police" in Spanish, and told the men to drop their weapons. A gunfight broke out, and Terry was fatally wounded by a bullet that hit him just above the hip. 

Favela-Astorga was the last remaining fugitive after Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes was arrested on April 17 by Mexican officials. He also faces extradition to the United States.

One man, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, was wounded during the exchange of bullets and left in the desert. After his arrest, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014.

Two other men, Ivan Soto-Barraza and Lionel Portillo-Meza, were both found guilty by a federal jury in October 2015. Both men were given mandatory life sentences in the killing, along with an additional 10 years each for carrying a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Both men were also sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy and assault on three federal agents, terms that will be served concurrently with their life sentences. 

Along with the five-man rip crew, two other men were indicted for their role in the conspiracy that ultimately led to Terry's death.

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In October 2015, Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez was sentenced to 27 years in prison in a Tucson court for first-degree murder after he admitted that he recruited the members of the group in Mexico, who then entered the United States on foot and used caches of weapons and supplies hidden in the desert to intimidate smugglers into giving up their loads of marijuana. The group would then hand over the marijuana to other co-conspirators and sell the drugs for a profit.

Another man, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, whose brother, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was wounded during the firefight, later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013.

After the murder of Terry, an investigation showed that one of two AK-47-patterned rifles used by the rip-crew was connected to a Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives operation designed to track the sale of guns bought by straw purchasers in Phoenix-area gun stores and smuggled into Mexico.

However, the agency lost track of at least 2,000 of these weapons, including the one used to kill Terry. Ultimately, the agency recovered around 700 of the weapons.

The operation, dubbed "Fast and Furious," became the focus of a congressional investigation that ultimately led to a contempt hearing for former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Fallout from the case forced U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke to resign, and the U.S. Attorney's Office of Arizona had to recuse itself from trials connected to it.

Instead, prosecutors from the Southern District of California in San Diego are leading the prosecution.

On Monday, Alana W. Robinson, the acting U.S. Attorney for the district told the Times of San Diego that the office was pleased to hold the seven men "accountable for their actions" in the murder of Terry.

"The arrest of Favela Astorga resulted from the unwavering commitment of the United States and our law enforcement partners in Mexico to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Agent Brian Terry, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country," Robinson said.

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Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry