A 73-year-old rancher from Arizona has been charged with first-degree homicide for allegedly shooting a Mexican man that was on his property.
The shooting reportedly occurred on George Alan Kelly’s cattle ranch, which is just outside Nogales, Arizona — and directly across the border from Nogales, Mexico.
The victim, Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, is a Mexican citizen who was carrying a Mexican voter registration card.
Following his arraignment, Kelly’s bail was set at $1 million.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from the United State Border Patrol around 2:40 PM on Jan. 30.
Border Patrol informed the local sheriff’s office that there was a “possible active shooter.” The agency had also received a call from a person at the scene – identified as “Allen” – who reported a “group of people running” and said that he was unsure if he was also under fire.
The Sheriff’sOffice responded to the scene but did not find anything, per Nogales International.
The sheriffs received another call about gunfire at the property around 5:56 PM. A body, which was ultimately identified as Cuen-Butimea, was found just before 6:30 PM with a single gunshot wound.
Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo told the media that Kelly was arrested after “the investigation initially revealed that he had shot in the area.”
Vermilion Mountain Ranch, Kelly’s ranch, is less than two miles from the US-Mexico border.
During his first appearance in court on Jan. 31, Kelly asked Justice of the Peace Emilio Velasquez if he would reduce his bond, expressing concern for his wife’s safety.
Kelly’s wife lives with him on the ranch.
“She’s there by herself … nobody to take care of her, the livestock. Or the ranch,” Kelly said. “And I’m not going anywhere. I can’t come up with a million dollars. Is there… Would you consider reducing it to any degree?”
In addition to his work as a rancher, Kelly published a fictional book about a ranch in southern Arizona in 2013. According to an Amazon listing for the book, “Far Beyond The Border Fence,” the novel “brings the Mexican Border/Drug conflict into the 21st century” and tells the story of a couple who discover two “prize quarter horses are missing” and that the property’s “southern fence, leading into Mexico, has been cut.”
“What follows will require a gallant effort, not only to retrieve his beloved horses and to rescue members of his family, but also to face an international plan to destroy twin American/Mexican cities,” per the description.
Arizona’s self-defense laws permit the use of physical force when “reasonable and immediately necessary to prevent several serious crimes, including Burglary in the first and second degree” notes Arizona criminal defense attorney Timothy Tobin.
“Arizona has specific self-defense laws that apply to preventing the commission of some serious crimes. In these limited scenarios, you can use a reasonable degree of physical force—even deadly force when it’s reasonably and immediately necessary,” wrote Tobin.
Maria Castillo, Kelly’s neighbor for the last decade, told KOLD that she feels safe living in the area but that she has observed people coming and going across the border. Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said he believed Kelly had acted in good faith.