Sunday, April 4, 2010

Killing of rancher in Southeast Arizona jars community

The killing of a rancher in southeast Arizona's Cochise County last week has shaken the region and the rancher's far-flung neighbors. Randal Archibold reports in today's New York Times that the killer is believed to have been an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The body of the rancher, Robert Krentz, Jr., 58, was found in his all-terrain vehicle, with a trail of blood leading from there toward the border, some 20 miles away. Krentz's dog had been shot and critically wounded, but the rancher's guns were left untouched. Shortly before Krentz went missing, he made radio contact with his brother, reporting that he was assisting someone he believed to be an "illegal immigrant."

The story mentions some of the challenges to law enforcement officers--including border patrol--in this sparsely populated area. If the killing was drug related--and the story suggests it is--it is the first such death in more than three decades.

An excerpt from Archibold's story follows:

“You never know who you’re dealing with out here because you get all kinds of traffic through here,” said William McDonald, a fellow rancher on the vast mesquite scrubland pocked with canyons and scattered mountain ranges floating on the horizon like islands.

Mr. McDonald and other residents said that in the last year or two the traffic had taken a more sinister turn, with larger numbers of drug smugglers, many clad in black and led by armed scouts.

“It was only a matter of time,” he said. “Everything was in place for something like this to happen.”

Krentz's family issued this statement, which also alludes to law enforcement issues:
We hold no malice towards the Mexican people for this senseless act but do hold the political forces in this country and Mexico accountable for what has happened. Their disregard of our repeated pleas and warnings of impending violence towards our community fell on deaf ears shrouded in political correctness. As a result, we have paid the ultimate price for their negligence in credibly securing our borderlands.
The dateline for the story is Douglas, Arizona, population 14,312 and a border town. While the population of Cochise County is 127,882, it was classified as nonmetropolitan after the last Census because the largest city, Sierra Vista, has a population of fewer than 50,000. The county seat, Bisbee, has a population of just more than 6,000.

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