Arizona Rancher Faces Trial for Alleged Killing of Migrant

Arizona Rancher Faces Trial for Alleged Killing of Migrant
The shooting took place close to the Arizona-Mexico border.

Arizona Rancher Faces Trial for Alleged Killing of Migrant

The trial of George Alan Kelly, a 75-year-old Arizona rancher accused of fatally shooting a Mexican migrant on his property, is set to commence amidst heightened attention on border-related issues among American voters.

The incident occurred in January 2023 when Kelly shot and killed a 48-year-old Mexican national on his cattle ranch near Nogales. Kelly’s defense contends that he discharged his firearm into the air out of fear for his family’s safety, alleging that he perceived a group of five camouflaged men trespassing on his property.

Prosecutors, however, assert that Kelly recklessly fired an AK-47 rifle at the migrants from a distance, fatally striking Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, while the other migrants managed to escape unharmed.

Kelly declined a plea deal in January, opting to face trial for second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 22 years in Arizona. The trial, anticipated to last a month, comes at a time when Arizona lawmakers are embroiled in debates over legislation that could empower property owners to use lethal force against individuals trespassing on their land.

Recently passed legislation in Arizona’s House, though not explicitly targeting migrants, has sparked controversy, with critics expressing concerns that it could facilitate extrajudicial killings. While the bill’s sponsor, Republican Justin Heap, argues that it aims to assist ranchers facing threats from trespassers, opponents, including Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs and Phoenix representative Analise Ortiz, have condemned it as potentially sanctioning violence against migrants.

Arizona’s existing “Castle doctrine” permits property owners to use deadly force only within inhabited structures and in cases of imminent danger. The proposed legislation seeks to broaden these provisions, prompting fears of escalating violence and undermining legal protections for migrants.

As the trial unfolds and debates over border security intensify, the case of George Alan Kelly serves as a focal point for broader discussions on immigration, property rights, and the use of lethal force in border regions.

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