Arizona Man on Trial for Shooting Illegal Immigrant Walking Through His Property

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

A legal battle has begun in Nogales, Arizona, that captures the essence of the nation’s border crisis. A 75-year-old rancher is facing charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault after he fatally shot Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, a 48-year-old illegal immigrant who passed through his property while trying to gain entry into the country.


The incident, which occurred on January 30, 2023, has garnered national attention amid the wider debate over immigration.

George Alan Kelly, 75, has been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of a man he encountered on his property outside Nogales, Arizona. The jury trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court is expected to last up to a month until around April 19, with proceedings held four days a week with Mondays off.

Kelly had earlier rejected a plea deal that would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he pleaded guilty. His case has garnered the sympathy of some on the political right, with several efforts raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his defense, including several on the GoFundMe platform that were quickly shut down because of the charges against him.

He was arrested and charged last year in the Jan. 30, 2023, fatal shooting of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea of adjacent Nogales, Mexico, just south of the border.

Kelly shot at a group of unarmed migrants who were walking through his nearly 170-acre (69-hectare) cattle ranch in the Kino Springs area, and Cuen-Buitimea was among them, authorities said.

Kelly’s defense attorney Brenna Larkin said the investigation that led to her client’s arrest and the subsequent charges against him was biased and incomplete, with investigators browbeating, not listening to and changing Kelly’s words.

Larkin has maintained that Kelly shot into the air above the migrants because he feared for his safety and that of his wife and his property. Larkin testified Friday that groups of migrants crossing through Kelly’s property grew more menacing over the years, including drug and human smugglers, prompting him to arm himself constantly for protection.


Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Attorney Kim Hunley went the emotional route while making her case to the jury. “I want you to consider Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea as a human being, and not as George Kelly described him – an animal,” she said.

The group of illegals, including Cuen-Buitimea, had turned around after seeing Border Patrol agents as they attempted to make it into the country. They wandered through Kelly’s property on their way back to Mexico. This is where the shooting occurred.

This is a tragic case highlighting the negative impact the border crisis has had on everyday Americans. The proceedings come just weeks after the murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia, at the hands of an illegal immigrant. Kelly, like many others living in border towns, appears to have experienced the same fears with people walking through their property from Mexico. These regions have become hotbeds for cartel activity as they smuggle and traffic humans across the southern border.

However, if the federal government had actually done something about the immigration issue, Cuen-Buitimea might still be alive today and Kelly would be home with his family. Unfortunately, the Biden administration and Congress have not seen fit to step up to the plate in that regard.




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