Colombian Nationals Extradited to U.S. For Bogotá Death of DEA Special Agent Terry Watson

— Domani Spero
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In June 2013, we blogged about the death of DEA Special Agent Terry Watson in Bogota, Colombia (see US Embassy Bogota: DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson Killed in Colombia).  On July 2, 2014, the Department of Justice announced the extradition of seven Colombian nationals charged in connection with the DEA agent’s death.

Via USDOJ:

Seven Colombian nationals were extradited to the United States to face charges relating to the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James Terry Watson.
[…]
“DEA Special Agent James ‘Terry’ Watson was a brave and talented special agent who represented everything good about federal law enforcement and our DEA family,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart.  “We will never forget Terry’s sacrifice on behalf of the American people during his 13 years of service, nor will DEA ever forget the outstanding work of the Colombian National Police and our other law enforcement partners.  Their efforts quickly led to the arrest and extradition of those accused of committing this heinous act.”

All of the defendants were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on July 18, 2013.   Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda, 39; Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero, 27; Edgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27; Hector Leonardo Lopez, 34; Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez, 31; and Andrés Alvaro Oviedo-Garcia, 22, were each charged with two counts of second degree murder, one count of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to kidnap.  Oviedo-Garcia was also charged with two counts of assault.   Additionally, the grand jury indicted Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, also a Colombian national, for his alleged efforts to destroy evidence associated with the murder of Special Agent Watson.

The defendants arrived in the United States on July 1, 2014, and made their initial appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, today before United States Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones Jr.   A detention hearing is scheduled for July 9, 2014, before United States Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis.
[…]
According to the indictment, Figueroa, Valdes, Bello, Lopez, Gracia and Oviedo-Garcia were part of a kidnapping and robbery conspiracy that utilized taxi cabs in Bogotá, Colombia, to lure victims into a position where they could be attacked and robbed.  Once an intended victim entered a taxi cab, the driver of the taxi cab would signal other conspirators to commence the robbery and kidnapping operation.

The indictment alleges that on June 20, 2013, while he was working for the U.S. Mission in Colombia, Special Agent Watson entered a taxi cab operated by one of the defendants.  Special Agent Watson was then allegedly attacked by two other defendants – one who stunned Special Agent Watson with a stun gun and another who stabbed Special Agent Watson with a knife, resulting in his death.

On July 1, 2014, the Government of Colombia extradited the defendants to the United States.

This case was investigated by the FBI, DEA and DSS, including the Office of Special Investigations and the Regional Security Office at Embassy Bogatá, in close cooperation with Colombian authorities, and with assistance from INTERPOL and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

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US Embassy Bogota: DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson Killed in Colombia

—By Domani Spero
On June 21, DEA announced the death of Special Agent James “Terry” Watson, who was murdered in “what appears to have been a robbery attempt” Thursday night in Bogota, Colombia. At the time of his death, Special Agent Watson was assigned to the DEA Cartagena, Colombia office and was on temporary duty in Bogota.

“We are all saddened by this devastating loss of a member of the DEA family,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Terry was a brave and talented DEA Special Agent who served our agency for 13 years. These are the worst days for anyone in law enforcement and we grieve Terry’s loss.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry’s wife and family, and we will forever carry his memory in our hearts.”

According to the DEA, Special Agent Watson had served in Honolulu, Hawaii and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prior to his assignment in Bogota, he also served on three deployments to Afghanistan conducting dangerous counter-narcotics missions as a member of DEA’s FAST program.  Special Agent Watson previously worked for the U.S. Marshals Service and served in the United States Army.

NBC News reports that the U.S Ambassador to Colombia Peter Michael McKinley told Caracol Radio that this appeared to be a run-of-the-mill robbery gone wrong and it did not appear that the agent was targeted.  Special Agent Watson reportedly had been watching the NBA finals with friends in the city’s fashionable Parque de la 93 district and had jumped into a taxi after the game.

Local media described this incident as a “paseo millonario,” a term for an express kidnapping. Although the OSAC Crime and Security report did not use this term, it details this crime as follows:

A common trend in cases of taxi-related crime is when the victim has been riding alone and has hailed a taxi on the street. Usually, the taxi driver will stop abruptly to allow a counterpart to enter the vehicle. The two individuals will then rob the passenger and in some cases bring the passenger to as many ATMs as possible.

The latest Crime and Security report says that Bogotá is rated “High” for terrorism, residential crime, non-residential crime, and political violence.  Post is rated 20% for cost of living, 5% for hardship and 15% for danger.

According to the embassy’s security office, the most prevalent threat to Americans on a daily basis is street crime. The most common types of crime include, but are not limited to, muggings, assaults, general thefts, credit card fraud, and burglaries. Criminals are quick to resort to physical assault and commonly use knives and firearms in the commission of crimes.

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