A 73-year-old Arizona cattle rancher, George Alan Kelly, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for allegedly killing an illegal immigrant from Mexico who trespassed on the rancher’s private property. The alleged killing took place on January 30th. Mr. Kelly is in jail, unable to make the bail that was set at an outrageous $1 million. And so began Mr. Kelly’s experience with Kafkaesque injustice. Rather than receive government protection against repeated instances of trespassing and harassment by illegal immigrants, Mr. Kelly has been charged with murder and jailed for standing his ground on his own property.
Mr. Kelly’s ranch is located about 1.5 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The slain Mexican, Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, had been previously deported multiple times for illegally entering the United States, as reported by the Daily Mail. Instead of staying in Mexico where he belonged, Mr. Cuen-Butimea entered the U.S. illegally once again. But he was not deported this time. Instead, he met his maker after being shot on Mr. Kelly’s property.
The charge of first-degree murder against Mr. Kelly is a gross abuse of power. He should be freed immediately and the murder charge should be withdrawn. First-degree murder involves taking another person’s life intentionally and with premeditation. The only premeditation here was Cuen-Butimea’s commission of the crime of knowingly entering the United States illegally and then unlawfully trespassing on Mr. Kelly’s private property. Mr. Kelly is being persecuted for defending himself, his wife, and his private property with the amount of force he deemed reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
Mr. Kelly claimed that he was at his own ranch earlier in the day on January 30th, according to his attorney, when he “saw a group of men moving through the trees around his home” who were “armed with AK-47 rifles, dressed in khakis and camouflaged clothing, and carrying large backpacks.”
Mr. Kelly, his attorney stated, saw an AK-47 pointed right at him and reacted by firing warning shots from his rifle “hoping to scare them away from him, his wife, his animals, and his home. As he shot, Mr. Kelly took care to aim well over the heads of the armed group of men.” Mr. Kelly denied firing directly at anybody.
Mr. Kelly’s attorney went on to state that later in the day on January 30th the rancher found a dead body in the grass while he was checking on a horse and reported what he had found to the authorities. The attorney added that further investigation did not find that the deceased himself had any firearms or backpack on or about his person.
Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo said that Mr. Kelly was arrested because “the investigation initially revealed that he had shot in the area.” That flimsy rationalization does not pass the smell test.
Mr. Kelly did not contest the fact that “he had shot in the area” earlier in the day of the fatal shooting and he explained why. Officials admitted that they did not know the circumstances that led up to the fatal shooting, which means that they had no basis either to independently confirm or refute Mr. Kelly’s account. They certainly had no basis to arrest him on a first-degree murder charge.
Yet law enforcement officers in Arizona, a stand your ground state, rushed to judgment with a first-degree murder rap against Mr. Kelly. And they imposed a grossly excessive bail on an elderly man who posed no flight risk. While Mr. Kelly has languished in jail, his wife has been home by herself facing possible further intrusions and being deprived of the care she needs from her husband.
To make matters even worse, GoFundMe removed fundraising campaigns from its website that had been set up to help Mr. Kelly collect enough money to satisfy the bail requirement.
GoFundMe tried to defend its action by citing its “long-standing policy” that “any fundraising campaigns for the legal defense of someone charged with murder are removed from our platform.” Evidently, the long-standing tenet of American law that one is innocent until proven guilty has eluded GoFundMe’s leaders despite its founder’s claim to the contrary.
Law enforcement officers assumed the worst rather than carefully considering far more plausible alternative explanations before they made the arrest and charged Mr. Kelly with first-degree murder.
For example, was the illegal immigrant simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was he shot accidentally when Mr. Kelly fired his warning shots at the armed men whom he had encountered earlier that day around his property? Have the police ruled out the possibility that the fatal shot was fired by someone else besides Mr. Kelly? Has there been a definitive determination of the time of Mr. Cuen-Butimea’s death?
Assuming, on the other hand, that this was no accident, Mr. Kelly was definitely the shooter, and Mr. Kelly knew what he was doing when he shot Mr. Cuen-Butimea, self-defense is a far more logical reason for the shooting than cold-blooded murder. Law enforcement officers skipped over getting answers to several key questions before locking Mr. Kelly up on a first-degree murder charge.
How much did the so-called “investigators” examine the underlying facts behind the report that law enforcement received earlier in the day of the sound of shots being fired in the vicinity of the Kelly ranch? Did they carefully search that immediate area for forensic evidence before arresting Mr. Kelly on a first-degree murder charge? Were there any witnesses who might have seen armed men near the ranch anytime during the day? Was there any surveillance that might have captured images of armed men near or around the ranch anytime during the day?
What was Mr. Kelly’s state of mind during the day on January 30th leading up to the alleged time that the illegal immigrant was shot? Was Mr. Kelly afraid that the armed men he said he had encountered earlier in the day were returning when he first encountered Mr. Cuen-Butimea on his property?
Was there an altercation between Mr. Kelly and Mr. Cuen-Butimea just before Mr. Cuen-Butimea was shot? Did Mr. Kelly’s wife or anyone else hear or see anything at the time?
If the police have conducted a thorough, professional investigation and have answers to questions such as these, they should publicly release their complete findings immediately. All that the Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy could say publicly so far in defense of the decision to arrest Mr. Kelly and charge him with first-degree murder was that “the investigation initially revealed that he had shot in the area.”
Mr. Kelly and his wife have been victimized repeatedly by illegal immigrants who have taken advantage of President Biden’s open border policies and intruded on the Kelly property. Border agents are kept busy processing the huge numbers of illegal immigrants claiming asylum for release rather than protecting the border. And then there are the many thousands of illegal immigrants who manage to elude border agents altogether. State and local law enforcement agencies have too often left ranchers like Mr. Kelly to fend for themselves because the police do not have the resources to handle the surge of illegal immigrants – some armed – who regularly trespass on private property and commit other crimes.
Sadly, now Mr. Kelly is being victimized once again. Only this time Mr. Kelly is being persecuted by law enforcement officers who have turned on him after having failed to protect the Kelly family and ranch in the first place.
Rather than give the benefit of the doubt to an elderly American citizen who had the right of self-defense against what he reasonably believed was a threat of serious physical harm, these overzealous officers did the opposite. They callously arrested Mr. Kelly, charged him with first-degree murder, and threw him into jail where he remains because he cannot make the $1 million bail.
It is time to release George Alan Kelly from prison and drop the murder charge against him now!