James Peters: Fed Helicopter Pilot Indicted for Lying About Illegal Immigrant's Death

A helicopter pilot with the Department of Homeland Security has been indicted for making false statements to investigators about an incident where a man drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande River.

James Peters, 41, had been flying interdiction patrols along the border. Investigators say that in 2006 he spotted two men in a flotation device near the International Bridge II in Laredo and buzzed them. One of the men was blown off the flotation device by the chopper's rotor wash and drowned.

Peters denied ever having flown at low level near the bridge, prosecutors say.

The indictment tells a different story, however:

BP [Border Patrol] agents on the ground observed a BP helicopter hover at low altitude over the individuals in the Rio Grande River in close proximity to International Bridge II. A BP pole camera video showed a BP helicopter hovering over the Rio Grande River in close proximity to International Bridge II. Internal records of BP helicopter N5185B indicate that on that date BP helicopter N5185B was being operated in close proximity to International Bridge II.

Internal radio transmissions indicate that the identified pilot of the helicopter told a BP agent by radio transmission he was going to try to make the individuals "go back." The BP agent observed one of the individuals separate from the flotation device due to the helicopter's rotor wash. BP was informed later that day that a Mexican national had drowned in the Rio Grande near International Bridge II.

On Dec. 14, 2005, according to the allegations in the indictment, Peters was the pilot and flying BP helicopter number N518.

Peters is accused of making four separate false statements and faces five years and $250,000 for each. He is currently assigned to duty in Maine and will be coming to Houston for a court appearance at a later date.

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