Homeland Security Helo Pilot on Trial

Pilot accused of lying about role in death of border crosser.

Helicopter Big
Helicopter Big
** A Hughes OH-6 Cayuse helicopter similar
to the one flown by DHS pilot James Peters
in December of 2005.**

James Peters, a 40-year-old helicopter pilot for the Department of Homeland Security, went on trial this week for his role in the aftermath of the death of an alleged border crosser back in 2005. In federal court in Houston, Texas, Peters is accused of making false statements to prosecutors about the incident, which resulted in the death of a man identified in court documents as Carlos Degadillo Martinez, who drowned, prosecutors say, after he was blown off of his makeshift inner tube raft by the downwash from Peters’ helicopter.

Border Patrol agents nearby reportedly witnessed the event. Federal attorneys say that Peters had claimed that he would force would-be border crossers to turn around. Camera footage from the international bridge nearby seemed to confirm that Peters did indeed fly low over the water at the time that Martinez drowned, but Peters claims that he did not fly dangerously low and never intended to use his helicopter to force the border crossers back to Mexico.

Peters has pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Martinez’s death prompted protests at the American consulate in Nuevo Laredo. His family is reportedly suing the United States for wrongful death and is seeking $5 million in damages.