The Embarrassing Case of Jesus Navarro (Updated)

(Note: I updated this post after a reader pointed out that the Border Patrol didn’t let Navarro go in 2007. What actually happened is even worse)

Now that a Mexican smuggler suspected in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent is on his way to San Diego, maybe we can finally get some answers as to how and why the case went so horribly wrong.

The U.S. government’s bungling allowed the suspect, Jesus Albino Navarro-Montes, to get out of a Mexican jail. That part is well known, but what hasn’t gotten much attention is that U.S. officials let Navarro slip away not once, but twice.

Not long before the death of Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, Navarro was caught by the Border Patrol with a half-ton of pot.

But he got away.

How?

According to a federal complaint, Navarro and his female passenger stole a Border Patrol vehicle and drove it back to Mexico.

This would laughable if the results weren’t so tragic.

A few months later, Navarro was allegedly behind the wheel of a Hummer H2 on Jan. 19, 2008 that illegally crossed the border near Yuma, Arizon.

Agent Aguilar, 32, was run over while trying to throw down a spike strip. The Hummer got away, but Navarro was arrested on January 28, 2008.

On June 18, 2008, he was released from jail by a Mexican judge.

Why?

The U.S. government never sought Navarro’s extradition. It never presented an arrest warrant. Without any evidence of a crime, Navarro had to be released.

“Although we had asked the U.S. government a couple of times before his release to help us deal with the matter so we could hold Mr. Navarro, we got nothing whatsoever,” embassy spokesman Ricardo Alday told a reporter for The Washington Times. “The U.S. response never came.”

Congress Brian Bilbray, a San Diego-area Republican, asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and the White House for an explanation.

He got the brush off.

Disclosure would “inevitably compromise highly sensitive law enforcement investigative information,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Keith B. Nelson wrote in a letter to Bilbray.

Navarro was re-captured near Zihuatanejo on Feb. 11, 2009 by Mexico’s Agencia Federal de Investigacion in an operation coordinated with the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

After Navarro’s re-arrest, authorities in San Diego unsealed a criminal complaint that showed that Border Patrol agents had captured Navarro on Sept. 23, 2007 following a chase east of San Diego.

(Click here to read the complaint and accompanying statement of facts.)

Border Patrol agents used a spike strip to successfully slow him down. Navarro ditched his pickup in the desert and fled on foot with an unidentified female passenger.

Border Patrol agents caught the pair and put them in their vehicle.

According to the statement of facts, “The female passenger was able to take control of the Border Patrol vehicle, and both the female passenger and NAVARRO-Montes absconded to Mexico in the Border Patrol.”

The agents were stuck in the desert with a Toyota pickup with three blown out tires and 979.7 pounds of marijuana inside.

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