TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The FBI wasn’t obligated to notify local law enforcement about a planned home invasion by a border vigilante group that later resulted in the deaths of a man and his young daughter in southern Arizona, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit brought against the FBI by the family of the victims in the deadly May 2009 home invasion in Arivaca, about 60 miles southwest of Tucson.
The case was brought by Gina Gonzalez, the wife and mother of the victims. Gonzalez said an informant told the FBI that members of the Minutemen American Defense, an anti-illegal immigration border activist group, were plotting the home invasion. But the FBI didn’t tell local authorities and therefore didn’t help prevent or stop the deadly incident, she argued.
Three masked intruders posing as law enforcement entered the Arivaca home two weeks later. They shot and killed 29-year-old Raul Flores and his daughter, 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. Gonzalez was also shot, but she survived.
The home-invasion robbery was an attempt to steal drug money to fund the Minutemen American Defense, prosecutors said. Shawna Forde, Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola all were all convicted of first-degree murder in 2011.
Gonzalez still lives in Arizona. Her attorney, Thomas Cotter, said he was exploring other options, but he declined to comment further.
An FBI spokesman in Arizona said the agency does not comment on court decisions.
“In our view, the district court correctly concluded that the Guidelines do not prescribe a mandatory course of conduct with respect to the FBI’s sharing of information with state or local law enforcement agencies,” Judge Jay S. Bybee wrote in the opinion filed Wednesday. “Even if an agent receives information that is credible and suggests serious criminal activity, an agent may choose not to disclose information based on his consideration of the possible effects of disclosure, such as the effect of disclosure on an informant, other individuals, or an ongoing investigation.”