EL PASO, Texas – A federal report released Wednesday on the shooting of a suspected drug smuggler by Border Patrol agents concurs with prosecutors that the men failed to report the shooting, destroyed evidence and lied to investigators.
Some members of Congress have criticized the case against Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, who were fired after their obstruction of justice convictions and have each been sentenced to more than a decade in federal prison.
Congressional critics, who say the men were doing their jobs when they injured Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila in 2005 near El Paso, had sought the release of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security report.
The report "has just emboldened our position because there is nothing in there that indicates these agents were not justified in shooting this individual," said Tara Setmayer, a spokeswoman for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "This finally sheds some light on what these agents were thinking."
She pointed to a written statement by Compean in which she said reflects that he "clearly believed the drug smuggler had a weapon and feared for his life."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., agreed Wednesday to allow Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to hold a hearing on the case, as she requested.
"I strongly believe that the sentences in this case are too extreme, given the criminal nature of the defendant and his possession of large quantities of drugs," Feinstein said in a statement. "These men were given sentences that some individuals who are convicted of murder wouldn't receive."
The heavily redacted, 77-page report, drafted last year, offers few new details. It primarily outlines what Aldrete said happened on Feb. 17, 2005, as he tried to run from Border Patrol agents after trying to elude them in a van loaded with marijuana.
According to the report, Aldrete, who was given immunity and has filed a multimillion-dollar claim against the federal government, told investigators he was unarmed and was shot as he ran from Compean and other agents. He said he tried to surrender and ran again after Compean slipped while trying to hit him with the butt of a shotgun.
The report also notes that other agents on the scene that day could not confirm whether Aldrete was armed and initially lied about whether they were aware of the shooting. They later cooperated with authorities. Those agents, whose names were removed from the report, were not prosecuted.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Democrat, said Ramos and Compean "may not have followed proper procedure following the shooting, which at most should have resulted in their suspension from the force, but not criminal procedure."
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whose office prosecuted the case and who has been widely criticized for pursing the agents and not the drug dealer shot, declined to comment.
Lawyers for Ramos and Compean did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The former agents were sentenced in October and reported to prison in January. Federal prison officials confirmed Tuesday that Ramos was attacked in a Mississippi prison after the airing of an episode of "America's Most Wanted" that highlighted his case.
Rohrabacher and other supporters of the agents have criticized President Bush for not pardoning them.