For weeks, the anti-immigration wing of the GOP’s base has been up in arms over the 10+ year sentences handed down to two border patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, for shooting an unarmed man as he attempted to flee in 2005.
WorldNetDaily has published dozens of articles about the issue, many written by Jerome Corsi, and FrontPage named Ramos and Compean its “People of the Year.” The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly attacked President Bush for refusing to grant the agents a pardon, as did Grassfire.org, which called the President a “fraud” and accused him of creating “an unbreachable chasm between his administration and millions of Americans who are concerned about our nation’s border security.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher even went so far as to invite Ramos’s wife as his guest to the recent State of the Union address in order to send “a powerful message” to the President.
And it does not look like they have any plans to give up soon, as CNSNews reports that “Several members of the House are drafting legislation to cut off funding specifically for the incarceration of border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, sentenced to 11 and 12 years respectively.”
The Right is livid because the man who was shot, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, was later discovered to have been attempting to smuggle nearly 750 pounds of marijuana into the country and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. As Friends of the Border Patrol stated:
This ruling … is the most disgraceful act that I have ever heard of in the history of our great nation and both she and the prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves for taking the word of a drug smuggler, caught in the act, while ignoring the facts.
But not everyone on the Right is so willing to blindly defend Ramos and Compean. In the last week, two separate right-wing publications hammered their erstwhile allies on the issue, accusing them of completely ignoring the agents’ obvious guilt.
First, the Wall Street Journal explained:
Agents Ramos and Compean were guarding the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 17, 2005, when they encountered a van driven by Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. When the driver saw the agents he sped off, eventually abandoning the vehicle and fleeing toward the border on foot. At one point, Aldrete-Davila stopped running and raised his empty hands to surrender. But when the first border agent to approach him stumbled, Aldrete-Davila took off again toward the Rio Grande.
At this point, Agents Ramos and Compean opened fire, shooting at the back of a suspect who they knew was unarmed. They fired 14 rounds in all–Agent Compean even paused to reload–finally hitting Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. The suspect was wounded but still managed to make it across the border and escape.
It later was determined that Aldrete-Davila was in the country illegally and smuggling drugs. Nearly 750 pounds of marijuana were found in the van. But Ramos and Compean didn’t know the suspect’s immigration status when they shot him. Nor did they know the contents of the vehicle he was driving. What the agents did know is that they had broken any number of border patrol policies.
So Compean and another agent returned to the scene to gather shell casings and discard them in a drainage ditch. Compean and Ramos, who’d been disciplined for past conduct unbecoming a federal officer, then filed a false report. The only reason their cover-up didn’t succeed is because an honest border agent who learned of the shooting eventually reported it.
After a trial lasting nearly three weeks, a federal jury in El Paso convicted both agents on charges including assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction of justice. As Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, put it: “The simple truth of this case is that former Agents Compean and Ramos shot 15 times at an unarmed man who was running away from them and posed no threat. They lied about what happened, covered up the shooting, conspired to destroy the evidence and then proceeded to write up and file a false report.”
Writing in the National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy, added more details:
The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.
More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender … Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.
Compean and Ramos are bad guys. Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.
Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.
So, Aldrete-Davila initially attempted to flee the Border Patrol agents and then attempted to surrender, at which point Compean tried to strike him with a shotgun, causing Aldrete-Davila to flee again, to which Compean and Ramos responded by opening fire and wounding him. They then set about covering up the incident, destroying evidence, and filing false reports about what had occurred.
And for that, many on the Right are treating them as heroes.