Arizona officer killed by immigrant who should have been deported years ago; Update: Police Assn. nows says cop killer was a U.S. citizen

Posted on May 11, 2011


Eleven year veteran of the Buckeye Police Department, Rolando Tirado,  was killed in a cold-blooded shooting on May 1st while working with another officer (Christopher Paz) on a private security detail for a swap meet establishment.  The two officers had pulled over a vehicle in the parking lot that had been driving erratically in the wee hours of the morning.  The account of what happened next is as follows:

Investigators said they believe Tirado and Paz went to talk with the occupants of a car being driven recklessly at the complex when things turned deadly.

 Thompson said Paz pulled in front of the car and Tirado alongside. As Tirado was talking to the driver, 27-year-old Cesar Tomas Quiroz Leon walked up behind him and shot him execution style, Thompson said. “He never knew it was coming,” Thompson said.

 Paz and the suspects opened fire, Thompson said, and though shot numerous times, Paz was able to return fire. Quiroz Leon was killed in the gun battle.

As the background of the cop killer, Cesar Leon,  has slowly been released, it looks as if he shouldn’t have been in the country at all.  At one time he was granted a green card and had been living in California.  In 2004 he started having run ins with the law and had a number of charges and convictions:

Leon, a permanent legal resident, had a criminal history in California. He got three years probation in 2004 after pleading no contest to a street gangs charge, according to California court records. In 2005, he was convicted of vehicle theft and possession of a firearm by a felon and sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison.

Even though he was sentenced to 9 years and 8 months in prison, he was released after five years and moved to Arizona in 2009. 

The critical issue here is why this man wasn’t deported back to Mexico.  According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) spokesperson, the crimes for which Leon had been convicted would had made him eligible for deportation. But apparently luck was shining down on Leon, and there was a paperwork snafu in the California system which resulted in this guy getting classified as a U.S. Citizen:

According to the Merced County Superior Court, Quiroz-Leon served five years in California state prison for numerous counts, including gang activity, weapons charges and vehicle theft. Upon release, he was transferred here to Arizona to be closer to family.

 Problem is, ICE was never notified about his release or transfer to Arizona, because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had mistakenly classified Quiroz-Leon as a U.S. citizen.

 Today there are high-tech biometric and fingerprint systems in place to make sure foreign-born criminals don’t get away. But that system wasn’t in place in 2004 when Quiroz-Leon was first arrested, and at some point, it appears his paperwork was misclassified.

Slipshod paperwork by those charged with keeping our citizens safe is not acceptable.  It will be informative to find out how this “misclassification” happened and how it ended up costing the life of an Arizona police officer.  It will also be interesting to see if this mistake prompts any sort of  investigation into whether others who should have been deported are now walking our streets.

UPDATE:

The Arizona Police Association is now backtracking saying that cop killer Cesar Leon was actually a U.S. citizen:

PHOENIX – The Arizona Police Association is now saying that a man suspected of killing a Buckeye police officer was not an illegal alien — but a U.S. citzen.

During a press conference on May 11, the APA previously announced that Cesar Quiroz Leon was in the country illegally and should’ve been deported back to Mexico once he was released from a California jail — and pointed the finger at the Los Angeles Jail system.

But now they are backtracking after the Los Angeles Department of Corrections verified he was indeed a U.S. citizen and was not wanted by ICE.

Quiroz Leon is accused of pulling the trigger in the murder of Buckeye Police Officer Rolando Tirado.

There is no explanation given for how the police came to the wrong conclusion about Leon’s citizenship.  It would be enlightening to know how this error occurred.  Regardless, citizen or not, this cop killer is gone for good.

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Posted in: Arizona, California