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Latino Daily News

Wednesday February 2, 2011

CBP Helicopter Pilot Arrested in Immigrant Death Case

CBP Helicopter Pilot Arrested in Immigrant Death Case

Photo: Border Patrol Helicopter

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In Maine on Tuesday, a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was arrested on charges of lying to federal agents in regards to an incident that occurred in the Rio Grande, and resulted in the death of Mexican man in 2005.

the pilot, James Peters in now facing four counts of lying to federal agents who were investigating the death of Carlos Delgadillo Martinez, 22, who drowned in 2005 after Peters allegedly purposefully flew his helicopter too close to the victim.

Federal prosecutors say Border Patrol agents working near one of the international bridges in Laredo saw a helicopter hovering low over two Mexican men on an inner tube in the Rio Grande on December 14th, 2005. According to federal records, radio transmissions revealed that the helicopter pilot told a Border Patrol agent that he was about to attempt to make the men “go back.”

The helicopter’s rotor wash caused the inner tube the men were holding onto to flip over. At least one of the men lost their grip. Delgadillo Martinez’s body was found in the river on Christmas Day, 11 days later.

Allegedly, Peters lied to agents from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General in January of 2006 when he reported that he had not come into contact with any undocumented immigrants near the bridge. He stated that he never flew at or below the bridge level because he knew of the danger is posed. Peters added that he never “buzzed or hovered” over any immigrants in the river.

If convicted of making false statements to the investigating agents, Peters faces a maximum of five years in prison, and $250,000 fine.

The victim’s family sued the U.S. government in 2007 over Delgadillo Martinez’s death in 2007, but the result of that lawsuit was not immediately known.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Peters, 41, was arrested in Houlton, Maine on Tuesday where he is now stationed. A federal magistrate judge in Bangor released him on personal recognizance bond and he is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Houston on February 15th.