Crossing the Line

The facts of this case are quite simple. Two Border Patrol agents shot at an unarmed man as he was running away from them. And then, they covered it up.

Before leaving office, President Bush commuted the prison sentences of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. My colleague Paul Burka wrote that Bush “did the right thing.” I must respectfully disagree.

First, some background. In 2007, I wrote about the Ramos/Compean case, “ Badges of Dishonor.” My reporting included reading the 3,000+ page trial transcript; interviewing Ramos and corresponding with him while he was in federal prison; reviewing Compean’s sworn statement to investigators and the testimony of the other Border Patrol agents who were on duty at the time of the shooting; and conducting interviews in the town of Fabens (where the incident occurred), as well as El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.

The facts of the case are quite simple. Ramos and Compean shot at an unarmed man as he was running away from them. They shot at the fleeing man a total of fifteen times. When they discharged their firearms, they did not know that the man they were firing at—a Mexican national named Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila—was a drug smuggler. For all they knew, he was another illegal immigrant crossing the border. One bullet struck Aldrete-Davila, but the wound did not turn out to be fatal; he was hit in the buttocks and lived.

After the incident, Ramos and Compean covered up the shooting. They did not report what had transpired to their supervisors, nor did Compean mention it in the report that he penned afterward. Compean went so far, in fact, as to hide the spent shell casings he had fired and recruit another agent to help him in this task. Once they were discovered, Ramos refused to talk to investigators. Compean told investigators that the fleeing man might have had

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