A US federal court on Monday convicted the last two of seven Colombians for the 2013 kidnapping and murder of DEA agent.
Edgar Javier Bello Murillo and Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero have been sentenced to serve 36 and 29 years respectively in US prison.
The double sentence brings an end to a two-year episode which began on the night of June 20, 2013 in the grimy streets of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota.
US DEA agent James Terry Watson, 40, stepped out into the night air after watching the NBA Finals in a restaurant. Sticking out his hand to hail a taxi, he couldn’t have had any idea that the gesture would lead him into one of Colombia’s notorious ‘millionaire rides’.
‘Millionaire rides’ are a form of robbery where a victim is kidnapped, usually during a taxi ride, and forced to withdraw money from ATMs until their withdrawal limit is met, frequently under the influence of drugs.
Despite one of gang members using a stun gun on the DEA agent, Watson continued to fight back leading Bello to stab him four times.
In an RCN interview Bello said that he stabbed Watson because he was “nervous… we weren’t professionals… I saw the blood on my hands as he fell from the car.”
According to the then 26 year old gang member, they had no idea their victim was a foreigner, let alone a DEA agent.
The 13 year veteran was later found by a passing citizen who alerted the authorities. Soon after he died from his injuries in an emergency clinic.
Because the agent was considered an “internationally protected citizen” all seven conspirators were extradited to the US. The five other co-defendants are already serving long prison sentences there.
According to Colombian newspaper El Espectador, both Bello and Valdes separately claimed that they were intimidated into signing affidavits. Both reported that brutality and life threats were employed by the American agents the day they were captured.
However Prosecutors denied that any violence was used to obtain the testimonies and the Court of Virginia favored the word of several US agents over the Colombians.
Attorney General Eric Holder lauded Watson as a courageous and patriotic law enforcement agent.
“Although our prosecution of his heinous attackers has come to its rightful close,” Holder said, “the Department of Justice will never rest in our efforts to honor Special Agent Watson’s life of service and sacrifice by upholding and values that he served to protect.”
US Sentences 2 in Murder of US DEA Agent in Colombia (Voices of America)