Arizona rancher pleads not guilty to killing illegal immigrant

by Jacob Fuller

Curt Flewelling, FISM News

A 73-year-old Arizona rancher has pleaded not guilty to killing a Mexican migrant on his ranch in Nogales, AZ on January 30.

George Alan Kelly was originally charged with first-degree murder for the killing of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea. However, a judge downgraded the charges to second-degree murder as a result of a massive public outcry to the initial charges.

The accounts of what happened on that day could not be more at odds with each other. Kelly asserts that he heard gunshots on the afternoon of January 30, ran out to the porch, and saw a horse running in his direction, and several men dressed in camouflage clothing armed with AK-47 rifles.

Kelly told authorities that he fired multiple warning shots over the heads of the men when they pointed their weapons at him. The Arizona rancher is on record as calling U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to report the incident.

Several hours later when Kelly went out to check on his horse, he found Cuen-Buitimea lying face down on the ground with a single gunshot wound in the back. Kelly’s version of what happened that day is at variance with the testimony of a man who was with the victim at the time of the shooting.

A man identified as “D.R.R.” testified at a February 22 court hearing, “The group was walking when this gentleman shot at us, I saw Gabriel hold his chest. I ran. I couldn’t help him.” He went on to say that he heard about 15 gunshots that sounded like they came from an AK-47 and that he thought the “government” had shot at him.

At the same hearing, defense lawyer Brenna Larkin said, “My client is being framed by human traffickers interested in ‘securing their route’ through Mr. Kelly’s property and aiming to use his case as a warning to others who may wish to challenge them.”

Prosecutors paint a much different version of the events that unfolded that day. They claim that Kelly shot an “unarmed” man in the back in an unprovoked attack as he “ran for his life” more than 100 yards from Kelly’s home.


At the epicenter of the case is the ongoing debate over a porous southern border leading to an influx of illegal immigration, human smuggling, and drug-related violence. Mr. Kelly’s ranch is located in Nogales, AZ which is very close to the Mexican border.

Ranchers are routinely requesting assistance from border patrol agents as their properties are being besieged by a wide range of illegal activities. In a previous hearing, Brenna Larkin asserted that the detective who interrogated her client was trying to get him to admit guilt rather than simply gathering facts.

“It was entirely possible that a rival cartel could have shot Cuen-Buitimea — not Kelly — but that cops tried to get him to admit it anyway,” Larkin said.

The prosecution will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. Mr. Buitimea has been deported numerous times over the last few years and was carrying a radio and wearing combat boots at the time of his death. A local border patrol chief suggested that this could very well mean that he was part of a cartel.