Ballistics reports, used in the trial of Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos, one of two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting fleeing drug dealer Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, do not support the prosecution’s claim the bullet was fired from Ramos’ gun, according to documents provided to WND from Andy Ramirez, chairman of the Friends of the Border Patrol.
Despite the conclusion of a laboratory criminalist that he could not conclusively link the bullet removed from Aldrete-Davila with Ramos’ service weapon, a Department of Homeland Security agent swore, in an affidavit of complaint filed against Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, that Aldrete-Davila was hit by a round fired by Ramos.
“Johnny Sutton and his assistants are guilty of malicious prosecution,” Ramirez charged to WND. “The prosecutors lied to the jury and he twisted evidence to make it fit his case. And when he couldn’t twist the evidence, the government demanded that the court seal evidence which would have been exculpatory to the defense.”
Nearly two years after the conclusion of the trial, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas has yet to release a transcript of the trial.
WND asked Ramirez if he was aware of the seriousness of his charges.
“I am very aware and I am accusing Mr. Sutton of a felony,” Ramirez told WND, “but I am basing my conclusion on the evidence I have examined in this case and the refusal by the government to provide evidence to substantiate its claim to the Congress and the American people.”
“Back on Sept. 26, 2006, officials from the DHS Office of Inspector General made serious allegations against both agents Ramos and Compean to four members of Congress from the Texas delegation,” Ramirez said. “The Inspector General has subsequently refused to provide their evidence to substantiate their claims to Congress. So I am also accusing the DHS Office of Inspector General of making false statements to Congress in order to prevent a congressional inquiry. I am asking the U.S. Congress to subpoena all documents pertaining to this case including the full transcripts, sealed testimony, and the sealed indictment against Aldrete-Davila in order to get to the truth of this case once and for all.”
Sutton told WND that as far as he in concerned, the issue was settled at the trial. Both defendants and their attorneys stipulated the bullet that struck the drug smuggler came from Ramos’ gun.
Ramirez argues the border agents did not have the best legal assistance, due to a lack of funds.
WND previously reported Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, has accused DHS of stonewalling on the release of documents. Despite persistent requests to hand over promised internal reports, McCaul told WND Congress had not yet received the materials.
In the Sept. 26, 2006, meeting with the Texas Republican delegation, the Inspector General’s office claimed it had substantiating investigative reports that could back up their criminal charges against Ramos and Compean. Among the charges made by IG was that Ramos and Compean had stated Feb.17, 2005, the day of the Aldrete-Davila shooting, they “wanted to shoot a Mexican.”
Monica Ramos embraces her husband, former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison (Courtesy El Paso Times)
WND also reported Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, last week filed a Freedom of Information Act request against the DHS Inspector General’s office to obtain those investigative reports. Poe took this action after DHS informed the Texas Republican delegation the documents would not be turned over to them because the Democrats were now in control of Congress and McCaul was no longer chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Ramirez has worked on the Ramos and Compean matter for nearly two years, investigating the facts of case and interviewing Ramos, Compean, their families and others knowledgeable about the proceedings. He shared two documents with WND that, he says, undermine the prosecution’s case against Ramos.
In an affidavit filed by DHS March 15, 2005, with the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas, special agent Christopher R. Sanchez swore the following:
Ballistics testing confirms a government-issued weapon belonging to U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos, a 96D Beretta .40 caliber automatic pistol, serial number BER067069M, fired a bullet (a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson jacketed hollow point) which hit the victim in the left buttocks while he was attempting to flee to Mexico.
The second document, a ballistics report completed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, interests Ramirez both because of the agency that did the testing and the results of the test.
“For some unexplained reason, U.S. Attorney Sutton had the ballistics test performed by the Texas Department of Public Safety in El Paso, rather than by the FBI,” he said. “This was a federal issue that should have gone to the FBI and only to the FBI. The Texas Department of Public Safety had no business running a ballistics report on a federal case. The FBI handles all shooting incidents, whether it involves assaults or otherwise, concerning federal agents. DPS should have refused the case and demanded that the bullet be picked up by the FBI for analysis.
“If you ask the Texas DHS how many shooting cases they handle involving federal agents, they would have said, ‘None’. Then, if you asked the FBI how many shooting cases they handle involving federal agents, they would have said, ‘All of them.’ Yet that isn’t how it went in this case. Nothing was done by the rules.”
The results of the ballistics tests were reported in a letter written by Joseph J. J. Correa, a Criminalist IV with the Texas DPS El Paso Laboratory, March 18, 2005, and addressed to Brian D. Carter of DHS in El Paso.
The letter states Correa examined one fired copper-jacketed bullet presented to him by Carter on March 17, 2005. The letter identifies the victim shot by the bullet as “Osvaldo Aldrete.”
In the letter, Correa notes that he was asked to determine the manufacture of the firearm that fired the submitted bullet.
Correa could not positively identify Ramos’ weapon as the one that fired the submitted bullet. His report concludes:
The copper-jacketed bullet was fired from a barrel having six lands and grooves inclined to the right. The manufacturer of the firearm that fired the copper-jacketed bullet is unknown, but could include commonly encountered models of .40 S&W caliber FN/Browning, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, and Ruger pistols.
Correa’s report gives no indication the bullet submitted for analysis was disfigured or in fragments, despite having been supposedly extracted from Aldrete-Davila’s body after reportedly doing massive damage to his groin area and hitting bone.
“The problem was that the ballistics report did not match the bullet to Ramos’ gun,” Ramirez said. “The ballistics report said the bullet could have been fired by any one of four different makes of gun. So, the affidavit of complaint against Ramos and Compean made a statement that was not substantiated by the ballistics report. That is a big problem for the prosecution. Their evidence does not support their accusation.”
The arrest warrant issued for agent Ramos, a copy of which Ramirez also supplied WND, attests Ramos was charged with, “Intentionally assaulting a Mexican national, one O.A.D., resulting in serious bodily injury.” This conclusion is not supported by the ballistics letter written by Texas DPS specialist Correa.
WND has not investigated documents from the prosecutors which would establish the chain of evidence between the time the bullet was extracted from Aldrete-Davila’s groin and the time Carter of DHS presented it to Correa for analysis.
“How do we know that the prosecutors didn’t simply fire a round from Ramos’ gun into gel?” Ramirez asks. “That could explain the nearly pristine bullet the prosecutors presented for ballistics analysis.”
The failure of the prosecution ballistics reports to link the bullet with agent Ramos’ weapon directly challenges a claim made by Sutton to WND in an exclusive interview. In that interview, Sutton claimed that agent Ramos hit Aldrete-Davila:
WND: So, Compean shot 14 times and missed everybody, but Ramos shot one time and hit the drug dealer in the buttocks?
Sutton: That’s correct.
WND: Is Ramos that much better a shot than Compean?
Sutton: Ramos is a marksman.
WND has further learned the bullet was not extracted from Aldrete-Davila’s body until DHS special agent Christopher R. Sanchez brought him back from Mexico, at some unspecified time after the February 17, 2005 incident in which Aldrete-Davila was supposedly wounded by agent Ramos’ fire.
A doctor in Mexico had inserted a catheter to reverse the damage done to Aldrete-Davila’s urethra, but did not extract the bullet.
The bullet was extracted by a U.S. Army doctor, at government expense. According to the physician, the bullet entered Aldrete-Davila’s left buttock from the left side, traversed his groin, damaged the urethra, hitting bone in the process, and lodged in his right thigh. The bullet was extracted from Aldrete-Davila’s right groin and he received reconstructive surgery for the damage done to his groin and urethra and a catheter was reinserted.
WND has obtained the post-operative release form for the U.S. operation. That document specifies that Aldrete-Davila was released to the custody of DHS special agent Christopher Sanchez. WND has not been able to obtain evidence regarding where Sanchez took Aldrete-Davila next, or why.
The Army doctor’s description of the wound directly contradicts U.S. Attorney Sutton’s repeated claim that agents Ramos and Compean shot Aldrete-Davila in the back.
The doctor clearly stated that the wound he observed was consistent with Aldrete-Davila turning to assume a “bladed position” with his left arm extended back toward the officers. This corroborates agent Ramos and Compean’s claim they observed Aldrete-Davila turning back toward them while fleeing, extending his arm and holding an object in his hand that they took to be a weapon.
Aldrete-Davila is left-handed, consistent with the bullet entering his left buttock laterally as he fled and turned back toward the officers, possibly pointing a weapon at them.
“The doper after the surgery was transferred back to the personal custody of DHS special agent Sanchez,” Ramirez said. “So Christopher Sanchez has both the doper and the bullet. Aldrete-Davila was not transferred to a hotel, escorted by federal marshals. Aldrete-Davila wasn’t escorted from Mexico by the Mexican government. Everything involving Aldrete-Davila was left to the personal custody of Christopher Sanchez. Anything could have happened and who would know?”
WND is left to ask the following questions, which the Texas DPS ballistics analysis does not resolve:
- How did Aldrete-Davila continue running far enough to cross the Rio Grande back into Mexico after he had been hit by a round that passed through his left buttock from the side and damaged his urethra before lodging in his right thigh?
- How do we know that the bullet extracted from Aldrete-Davila could not have been fired into him during an unrelated incident in Mexico subsequent to Feb. 17, 2005, by a weapon among those of the type described in Correa’s report?
Conceivably, agents Ramos and Compean did not hit fleeing drug smuggler Aldrete-Davila on Feb. 17, 2005, despite firing multiple rounds at him.
“Johnny Sutton and his office have intentionally distorted and misrepresented the facts in this case,” Ramirez charged. “There’s something clearly wrong in the federal prosecutor’s office in El Paso. The Ramos and Compean case is a witch hunt. Every law enforcement agent on the border from Border Patrol agents to ICE agents to deputy sheriffs and sheriffs have gotten the message.”
What’s the message, WND asked?
“The message is simple,” Ramirez replied. “Enforce our drug laws aggressively on the border and you risk going to jail, not the drug dealers. We have a drug war going on along the Texas border and the U.S. government has backed off to the benefit of the drug lords.
Ramirez ended the interview with WND by noting: “After the Ramos and Compean case, no U.S. law enforcement officer on the border will ever again draw a weapon against a Mexican illegal transporting drugs without worrying that effort to enforce our laws may place him in jail, not the doper.”
On Aug. 17, 2006, Ramirez gave sworn testimony on the Ramos and Compean case to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, a copy of which is posted on his website.