A rancher who lives near the US border with Mexico is being held on a charge of first-degree murder after the fatal shooting of a man believed to be a Mexican citizen. His bail has been set at $1 million.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office in Nogales, Arizona, confirmed on Monday that George Alan Kelly, 73, was arrested last week in connection with the killing.
Authorities believe the deceased was Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, who lived next to the US in Nogales, Mexico, because of a Mexican voter registration card he carried.
Nogales is just south of the Arizona town of the same name, separated by the US-Mexico border.
Cuen-Buimea had a history of illegally crossing the border, according to federal court documents. He was reportedly deported from the US back to Mexico several times, most recently in 2016.
The US typically bars those deported from entering the country for five to 10 years with repeat offenders barred for longer or even permanently.
The killing occurred on January 30 in the Kino Springs area just outside Nogales, Arizona, said Sheriff Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo.
Nogales International reports that US Border Patrol agents informed the sheriff’s department of a “possible active shooter” situation with a man calling himself “Allen” unable to say if he was getting shot at himself.
Maria Castillo, who has lived in the area for 10 years, told local station KOLD that it wasn’t unusual to see people crossing the border and going into town.
READ MORE: Trump delivers ‘real’ State of the Union after Biden slams Republicans
Arizona has laws similar to other “stand your ground” states, meaning that the use of deadly force on one’s own property is legal in certain circumstances.
The statue states: “A person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.”
Kelly was being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail after his arraignment in the county’s Justice Court last week. He is set to return to court on Wednesday.
Local attorney Brenna Larkin, who was appointed by the court to represent Kelly, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the charge against him.