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Archive for October, 2021

Weekend Series on Crime History: A Cocaine Cowboy

Border Patrol Mourns Death of Supervisory Agent Rafael G. Sanchez

Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Rafael G. Sanchez

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol on Thursday announced the death of Supervisory Agent Rafael G. Sanchez. 

Sanchez, who joined the agency in September 2002, served as a field training officer in the Del Rio Sector.  

He died on Oct. 24.

The circumstances of his death remain unclear. 

“The Sanchez family will forever be a part of our Border Patrol Family. Though he was a member of Laredo Sector at the time of his passing, Agent Sanchez served in Del Rio Sector for many years,” Chief Robert Danley said on the Del Rio Sector’s Facebook page. “As a Field Training Officer at the Del Rio Station, he had an immeasurable impact on our sector as he trained and readied dozens of new agents for their new careers. Rest easy Agent Sanchez. You are not forgotten.” 

Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller added on Twitter, “I am deeply saddened to share the passing of Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Rafael Sanchez. Agent Sanchez entered on duty on September 16, 2002, and was most recently assigned to the Hebbronville Station in Laredo Sector. @CBP will forever honor his service and sacrifice.”

Whitey Bulger’s Death Remains a Mystery Three Years Later

Whitey Bulger

By Steve Neavling

It has been three years since notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was beaten to death inside his jail cell, and many questions are still unanswered about his murder. 

Bulger, who was 89 and wheelchair bound, was found beaten to death inside his cell on Oct. 30, 2018, just hours after he was transferred to a West Virginia prison nicknamed “Misery Mountain.” The transfer came after the wheelchair-bound ex-mob boss threatened a Florida prison nurse who suggested he see an outside heart doctor.

No one has been charged in his death. 

It also remains unclear why Bulger “was put in the troubled lockup’s general population alongside other New England gangsters — instead of more protective housing,” The Los Angeles Times reports.

Without any explanations – other than that his death is still under investigation – his family believes he was “deliberately sent to his death.” 

“This was really a dereliction of duty,” said Joe Rojas, a union representative for the correctional staff at the Florida prison where Bulger was previously held in Bruceton Mills, W.V. “There’s no way he should have been put in that institution.” 

Bulger was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 murders and sentenced two life behind bars. 

Biden’s Former ATF Nominee Says ‘It’s Easier to Buy a Gun Than a Beer’

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

Steve Neavling

David Chipman, President Biden’s former pick to lead the ATF, said the Senate’s failure to approve his nomination would exacerbate gun violence in the U.S. 

“I have, from 25 years as an ATF agent, and largely for ten years after that, committed myself to one thing: preventing gun violence in this country,” Chipman told “CBS Evening News” in an exclusive interview. “To oppose me must mean that you’re not for preventing gun violence.”

In September, Biden withdrew Chipman’s nomination after Senate Democrats were unable to get enough votes to approve him. 

Chipman, a gun owner and former ATF agent, had come under fire for his support of firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. He’s also a former adviser at the Giffords, a gun control group. 

Chipman said it’s too easy to buy guns in America. 

“I think the real conversation we’re having, and I want to be clear, is the fear is it’s gonna be harder for people who sell guns to sell guns absent any accountability for profiting from selling them to criminals and terrorists. The reality is in much of America it’s easier to buy a gun than a beer,” he said. “The problem is the gun industry profits by gun violence itself because it’s the fear that you’re gonna get shot, that you run out and buy a gun.” 

The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2015. Asked what the ATF needs to effectively combat gun violence, Chipman responded, “A leader, the funding to do their job, and the ability to support state and local law enforcement, which is why ATF was created in the first place.” 

Garland Defends Memo Ordering FBI to Investigate Threats against School Boards

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before House Judiciary Committee. Photo: Congress.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland told senators on Wednesday that he had no plans to rescind a memo that orders the FBI to investigate threats against educators and school board members. 

The memo was the focus of Garland’s testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Republicans called on Garland to withdraw the order.

The Oct. 4 memo was intended to curtail threats against school officials, not to police protected speech, Garland told senators, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to get our law enforcement to assess the extent of the problem. And if there is no problem, if states and local law enforcement are capable of handling the problem, then there is no need for our involvement,” Garland said. “This memo does not say to begin prosecuting anybody. It says to make assessments. That’s what we do in the Justice Department. It has nothing to do with politics.”

Republicans continued to criticized Garland. 

“I think most of the American people are just sort of flabbergasted if your answer is you have no regrets about this memo. Is that what you’re telling us? You think this was wise?” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked. 

“Senator, the obligation of the Justice Department is to protect the American people against violence, including threats of violence, and that particularly includes public officials. That is still a concern for the department,” Garland responded.

The order came after the National School Boards Association urged President Biden to offer federal assistance as educators are increasingly threatened over their positions on mask mandates and critical race theory. 

DOJ Reviews Preliminary Probe into Border Patrol Agents’ Handling of Haitian Migrants

By Steve Neavling

Viral images of Border Patrol agents on horses trying to block Haitian migrants from entering Del Rio, Texas, sparked outrage, and Homeland Security officials pledged a swift investigation. 

More than month later, the agents have not yet been questioned, ABC News reports, citing a law enforcement official.

Homeland Security officials have declined to comment on the investigation. 

The Justice Department has received a preliminary report from the CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which was investigating. No decision has been made on whether criminal charges are warranted. 

According to one law enforcement official, the internal investigation could only proceed – and the agents interviewed – when the U.S. attorney made a decision. 

“The investigation is ongoing,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. “The Department is committed to a thorough, independent, and objective process. We are also committed to transparency and will release the results of the investigation once it is complete.”

Grand Jury Indicts U.S. Marshal, Georgia Police Officer in Death of Man Shot 76 Times

By Steve Neavling

A U.S. Marshal and Georgia police officer were indicted by a grand jury for their role in the 2016 killing of a man shot dozens of times while trying to make a fugitive arrest. 

Eric Heinze, an assistant chief inspector with the U.S. Marshal’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, and Clayton County Police Office Kristopher Hutchens were indicted on felony murder charges, along with counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, making false statements and violation of oath by a public officer, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Jamarion Robinson, a 26-year-old college student who family members said suffered from mental illness, was shot 76 times when officers with a U.S. Marshals task force tried to enter his apartment with warrants on Aug. 5, 2016. He was wanted for allegedly pointing a gun at Atlanta officers and fleeing. 

East Point police said Robinson shot once at officers, who then returned fire. 

Prosecutors said the investigation was difficult because there were no body cameras and the officers refused to cooperate. 

Dying Ex-FBI Agent John Connolly Is Headed Home to Massachusetts

By Steve Neavling

John Connolly, the disgraced former FBI agent who was sentenced to 40 years behind bars for working with mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, is headed home to Massachusetts, a widow told The Boston Herald.

In February, the Florida Commission on Offender Review voted 2 to 1 to grant Connolly’s request for medical release after his lawyers said he had terminal cancer. 

Mary Callahan, whose husband was murdered by Bulger’s gang, said her family had been alerted that Connolly is coming back to Massachusetts. 

In requesting the medical release in February, Connolly’s lawyer, Peter Mullane, said the former FBI agent has “two serious illnesses.”

“He has multiple melanomas and pretty bad diabetes,” Mullane. 

While working for the FBI’s Boston Field Office in the 1970s, Connolly recruited Bulger as an informant. Connolly was convicted of second-degree murder for participating in a plot to kill a Florida businessman in 1982 at the urging of Bulger, who was killed in a West Virginia prison in 2018. 

“It must be great to get back to where you started,” Callahan told The Herald on Monday. “I wish my husband could come back to where he once was.”