An elderly Arizona rancher who has been charged with shooting and killing a Mexican illegal immigrant on his property in recent weeks is drawing the sympathy and aid of scores of Americans rushing to help after GoFundMe removed a campaign designed to help defray legal costs.
Brenna Larkin, a lawyer for George Alan Kelly, the elderly Arizona rancher accused of first-degree murder for shooting a Mexican man trespassing on his property, says he saw armed men approaching him, pointing an AK-47 rifle at him, leading Kelly to fire warning shots to scare them away.
The rancher is being held on $1 million bail and is charged with first-degree, premeditated murder for the Jan. 30 shooting of a man later reported to be a Mexican national named Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, on his Kino Springs, Arizona ranch, according to Fox News.
“The leader of the armed group of men saw Mr. Kelly and pointed an AK-47 right at him,” wrote Brenna Larkin, Kelly’s court-appointed attorney, in a court filing reported by Fox News.
“Mr. Kelly, fearing for his life and safety, fired several shots from his rifle, hoping to scare them away from him, his wife, his animals, and his home. As he shot, Mr. Kelly took care to aim well over the heads of the armed group of men. The group then began running into the desert surrounding his home. Once the group had fled, Mr. Kelly walked over to his barn to see if it was safe and secure.”
GoFundMe took off multiple legal defense funds for Kelly because the company said these funds violated its terms of service about raising money “to cover the legal defense of anyone formally charged with an alleged violent crime.”
Jacob Wells, a co-founder of GiveSendGo, told The Arizona Sun Times, “We are happy that GiveSendGo has become the neutral platform for everyone needing to fundraise.” His sister and co-founder, Heather Wilson, added, “GiveSendGo stands committed to allow people to fundraise for legal activities no matter how volatile the political climate might be.”
The million-dollar bail has outraged conservatives and those concerned about criminal activity at the border due to relaxed border enforcement under President Biden. After the left-leaning GoFundMe site booted all online fundraising for Kelly, saying it bans appeals on behalf of anyone accused of a violent crime, supporters moved to the Christian giving site GiveSendGo and quickly surpassed the organizer’s original goal of $25,000. The amount raised at press time was more than $305,000.
According to court documents, Kelly said he did not realize until hours later, when he found the body, that he had hit someone. He notified law enforcement both after confronting the men and after finding the body.
The Sun Times notes:
The Mexican citizen is believed to be 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Butimea. The Daily Mail reported that federal records show Cuen-Butimea “had a history of illegal border crossings and deportations in and around Nogales, with the most recent documented case in 2016.”
Arizona’s “stand your ground” law states that “a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.” To convict Kelly, prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not justified in using deadly force in self-defense.
In a court filing requesting that bail be set at a lower amount, Kelly’s attorney stated, “Had Mr. Kelly truly murdered someone with premeditation, then he would have no incentive to call law enforcement and lead them to the body. On the contrary, he would have had every incentive to dispose of the body in the vast, isolated desert areas surrounding his property.”