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Interview with Ignacio Ramos

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(CNN) -- Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos is serving 11 years in prison for shooting Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila as he ran toward Mexico.

Aldrete-Davila was wounded in the shooting, which occurred after he allegedly ditched a vehicle containing more than 700 pounds of marijuana. Aldrete-Davila was granted immunity to testify against Ramos and his partner, former Border Patrol Agent Jose Compean.

The agents were convicted last year in the 2005 shooting incident near El Paso, Texas, and of then trying to cover it up. Davila was shot once in the buttocks. Ramos is being held at a medium- and low-security federal facility at Yazoo City, Mississippi. Compean is serving a 12-year sentence at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Ohio.

The following is a transcript of a phone interview that CNN Anchor Lou Dobbs conducted with Ramos.

LOU DOBBS: How are you feeling?

IGNACIO RAMOS: I'm hanging in there, you know. As best I can.

DOBBS: How are they treating you?

RAMOS: Not bad, you know? They give me my meals, they take care of me, I guess, as best they can.

DOBBS: How much time do you have each day to -- to be in the general population? Are you at all in the general population?

RAMOS: No, I'm kept in isolation. That's where I spend all my time.

Pretty much I spend a lot of time reading. I exercise a little bit, and I read a lot of the letters that I still continue to get, which has been great. They have been a great morale booster, and definitely been able to help me keep things in perspective.

DOBBS: Well, I'm glad you're getting that support. I know that's important for all of us. In your circumstance, even more so than the rest of us, more so, I imagine, than we can even begin to understand.

Do you feel like talking about a few things to deal with the prison life?

RAMOS: Sure.

DOBBS: Do you -- first, is everybody being cordial to you, are they being professional, or -- how do you feel you're being treated?

RAMOS: You mean, as far as the guards go?

DOBBS: Right.

RAMOS: I would say the majority of the guards have been very good, you know; yes, very professional. Some guards, you know, whether they know who I am or don't, I would say they are professional, but they would just -- they pretty much just go about their business, you know. Probably just like I'm another inmate. But some, I would say that -- I wouldn't say they've gone out of their way, but the ones that do know who I am have taken a little bit more time, have talked to me and have given me their support, and wished me well and offered me their support and their best.

And definitely some have told me that, you know, they really don't see how I should be here and don't deserve to be here at all.

DOBBS: Well, there are millions of people who agree with that view.

Let me ask you a few questions about the prosecution: have you got a sense as to why the U.S. attorney prosecuted you and Compeon so vigorously?

RAMOS: You know, from the very beginning, we've asked ourselves -- you know, my family and I -- that from the very beginning, why they've come after us so hard and, you know, with all the letters and stuff that I've received -- obviously many stories and clippings and news stories now about why they think they came after us so hard.

But you know, it's still a real big mystery to me. I mean, if you go on a lot of the stuff that I've heard, it's incredible. And I really hope a lot of that's not true. But it's still -- just the basic fact that what it comes down to, taking the word of a drug smuggler, period, over us is just incredible enough to make this, you know, just -- make us all just flabbergasted about the whole thing, because you know, I just -- I've done this for ten years and I remember a lot of the words that were said during the trial, and to say that he had plenty of credibility or what he did didn't hurt his credibility was just incredible.

DOBBS: Let me ask you -- let's go back to the day of the shooting: when you're following the van -- the van you followed, did you have any sense that there were drugs in it?

RAMOS: I had a pretty good sense, I mean, like I said, I had done this for the last ten years and the fact that the person that was driving this van didn't yield to, at the time, Agent Juarez, who first encountered the van, and then didn't yield to me, once I got behind it, pretty much gave us a good indication that at that time, yes, 99 percent chance that he was carrying narcotics in the van. I mean, that's just the way things worked out there.

DOBBS: You said, when you were down in the ditch and you were pursuing the suspect, or the witness, as it turns out, that you heard shots fired. What did you think was going on?

RAMOS: Well obviously, some type of altercation. and if there are shots being fired, I have to assume that, you know, in this case that it's the smugglers shooting at the other agent, and I knew that Agent Compeon was by himself, you know, because he was the only one standing between him and the smugglers' freedom to Mexico at the time.

So there was -- there was no other thought for me, other than he was in danger and he was being shot at.

DOBBS: At what point did you fire at the suspect?

RAMOS: When he made a threatening motion to me, when he turned and pointed what I believed was a gun to me. Had he never turned, you know, there would have been no shot. But when I told him to stop, he turned and made a threatening motion to me, and that's when I fired.

DOBBS: The prosecutor said you and Compeon failed to arrest the drug smuggler, and that's why they couldn't charge him. Does that make any sense to you?

RAMOS: None at all. I mean, we tried our best to arrest him, that's what we were doing. Yet, during the trial, she chastised us for doing what we did and why we didn't just let him go home. That's kind of incredible to hear, and I know I've heard it plenty of times, but I mean, there's plenty of things that put him on the scene. If they're saying that I shot him, well, that pretty much puts him there, you know.

DOBBS: Pretty conclusive.

RAMOS: I would say. I mean, they're the ones that -- they're the ones saying that it's my bullet there, so I would say that puts him there 100 percent.

DOBBS: You've refused to do a plea deal with the prosecutor?

RAMOS: Yes, sir. Several times.

DOBBS: What did they offer you?

RAMOS: It started somewhere around five years, and I think the last time, it was for 18 months. But, there was just no way I was going to plead guilty to anything. I was doing my job. I would -- I didn't do anything wrong. I was stopping a drug smuggler, like I had done the last ten years. And plain and simple, I was going to make sure I went home, and do my best to make sure Agent Compeon went home that day, no matter what.

DOBBS: How many times have you had to fire your weapon in the line of duty?

RAMOS: That made it the second time.

DOBBS: What happened the first time?

RAMOS: The first time, I had just over a year in the Border Patrol. I had just completed a year. It was kind of the same situation: I was chasing a truck that carried almost 900 pounds of marijuana. It broke through a steel pipe gate that we have there on the levee. And I chased the smuggler all the way to the river. He managed to get all the way to the river. I was by myself that day, however the people that helped load him up were on the Mexican side still, and he yelled at them, and they had one person on the Mexican side with a rifle, and he started shooting at me. And I returned fire that day.

DOBBS: As far as you know, you didn't hit anyone?

RAMOS: No, not that I know of. I never heard anything about that.

DOBBS: Did you file a report on that?

RAMOS: Yes, because -- that's something the prosecution brought up, that I called it out over the radio. But see, like I said that day in trial, I had no choice. I was completely by myself, so I had to take the time to call for help that day. As I said in this trial, the reason I didn't take the time to call on the radio is because I knew I had at least four other agents behind, and I expected them to at least get on the radio and call for help. If not, at least come through the canal like I did and come help us. I expected that. And they didn't come. Why they didn't, I don't know; I couldn't answer for them.

DOBBS: And that wasn't brought -- their answers weren't offered at trial?

RAMOS: They didn't ask them.

DOBBS: On this one, how many other agents and supervisors were there at the time of the -- you know, while you were there?

RAMOS: They arrived after the fact.

DOBBS: How much after?

RAMOS: Well, we kept an eye on the smuggler, I would say, a couple minutes, until he was picked up by the -- by a vehicle on the Mexican side, and he left. But, you know -- it wasn't much after that, because they could hear all the radio traffic, so they must have been on their way to the area, which is another thing they, you know, the prosecution, argued about about us -- or, me in particular, not saying anything on the radio. But of course, I had -- I did, and they had to have heard me, or else they wouldn't know where we were.

But -- so, it wasn't -- it wasn't like ten or fifteen minutes after the fact that they got there. They got there within a couple of minutes, if anything.

DOBBS: Do you feel those agents were supportive of you?

RAMOS: Which ones? The supervisors?

DOBBS: The supervisors and the other agents that were behind you.

RAMOS: Well, they were supportive to an extent. I think the agents that were behind me could have, in retrospect, done a lot more. Like I said, I expected them to follow. I shouldn't have been the only one going through that canal to help Agent Compeon. They should have been right behind me. At least, I think so.

As far as the supervisors, well, they're management and they're going to take their course (ph), especially for a company like Mr. Richards, you know. I'll pretty much leave that one alone.

DOBBS: The idea of picking up your brass -- what made you do that?

RAMOS: I didn't touch the brass at all.

DOBBS: But you knew Compeon was picking up his brass, right?

RAMOS: No, I didn't.

DOBBS: You didn't?

RAMOS: No. That's -- that's what I testified to, I didn't -- and I didn't see him. And that's -- of course, the prosecution tried to place me, or put it that I knew and placed me at the time that I saw him, or placed me at the scene where I did it as well. But I never saw him, I never did it, and I never knew he did it.

DOBBS: How far were you from Compeon when you fired your shot?

RAMOS: Well I had ran past him, when I fired my shot. I would -- I don't recall what I had testified to. I think I had said maybe twenty or thirty feet, maybe?

DOBBS: And how far was this drug smuggler, when you fired at him, from you?

RAMOS: I'd say twenty or twenty-five yards. Because he was almost by the river's edge, or quite near it.

DOBBS: That's a helluva good shot.

RAMOS: I think it was pretty lucky -- pretty unfortunate for me, actually.

DOBBS: I understand -- making a bad joke.

RAMOS: No, I know.

DOBBS: The idea -- do you hold out any hope for a pardon, either a congressional pardon or a presidential pardon?

RAMOS: That's kind of a tough one. I used to hold on for a presidential pardon. I think if he was going to do it, he would have done it by now. I do hold out for a congressional pardon. I think it's incredible to see what these congressman are doing and what they've done. And even though it's slow -- trust me, on my side it's frustrating -- but you know, it's a small trickle effect, but it grows. The support grows and grows. And as more people get on their congressman, you know, I guess eventually they will listen to their constituency.

But you know, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that it's going to be a long battle, and as far as -- it's probably going to have to go to -- through the appeal process. I mean, it's already been a long battle, going on two years now. And unfortunately, I'm probably going to have to sit in here, waiting for the conclusion.

But you know, I try and stay headstrong and keep the faith.

DOBBS: Good for you.

What did your attorneys tell you about having to go to prison during the appeal process? Did you think you would have to?

RAMOS: Well, you know, we really held out a lot of hope -- we really held a lot of hope that we wouldn't have to. We really thought there was no reason to, especially that we had been let out on bond all this time, especially since the conviction. And after we were denied the first bond from the first judge, we really thought the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals would reverse it. And it was really disappointing to hear that they denied it as well.

So, especially when they came back with a pretty much one line sentence that they said there was no extraordinary circumstances. I mean, it's not every day, you know, almost a hundred congressmen get behind you and stand by you for your case. So that was pretty shocking.

But you know, they made their decision and so here I am. But you know, it's been -- don't get me wrong, it's been tough to deal with, trying to keep in touch with my wife only through letters. You know, being in isolation, I can only have one call every thirty days. That's the only reason I chose population that first time around -- I didn't want to be completely cut off from my family any more than what I was already going to be.

So it's been pretty hard to deal with, on that aspect.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

The night you were assaulted, can you tell us what happened?

RAMOS: Well, I was pretty much just watching TV. Unfortunately, they've tried to make a point of -- you know, the Bureau of Prisons and -- I spoke to the assistant prosecutor -- assistant U.S. prosecutors today from Mississippi, handling that case now. I guess they're trying to make it -- I don't know, a point about America's Most Wanted, and I got to thank them for doing the story, anyway, but that story came out that Saturday. And I knew -- I had watched it, but I tried to play it off. I guess, though, these people had recognized me.

But they waited until 10:00 o'clock, and I had just gotten out of the shower, so I was sitting in my little cubicle with just a t-shirt and shorts on. And I heard some running, and at that time of the night, you know, pretty much no one's wearing shoes, just wearing like slippers. And what happened is, these guys had gotten fully dressed in their boots and stuff and that's the pounding I heard. And as soon as I turned around to see where it had come from, these guys were already coming in my little cubicle, and when I turned around, the punches were already coming. And that's how it started.

DOBBS: How many were there?

RAMOS: Initially I saw just three, but it was that fast, because when I turned around to see what was happening, I barely had time to turn my head, so I wouldn't take the first punch square in the face. So I caught the first punch on the side of the head, and I barely had time enough time to cover up a little bit, before I took several punches to the head. And ultimately it was five of them that pretty much surrounded me.

DOBBS: Did you recognize them?

RAMOS: No, not really. I didn't have time. It was that fast, and I covered up my face the best I could to protect my face.

DOBBS: Did they say anything to you?

RAMOS: Well, they were screaming things at me, explicitives (SIC) in Spanish, things about the Border Patrol as well. And of course, screaming to hit him, in Spanish. But that's basically the extent of things that I could hear, of what they were yelling at me in Spanish.

DOBBS: Were they all Hispanic?

RAMOS: Yes, they were.

DOBBS: What kind of things were they saying about the Border Patrol?

RAMOS: Well, the one thing I heard clearly was -- and I'll just tell you, they said (PHRASE IN SPANISH), which, it's slang, but it means the f-word and then Border Patrol.

DOBBS: What did they say to you personally?

RAMOS: Nothing that I could pick out. The rest was pretty much just, Hit him, hit him, hit him.

DOBBS: And the prison officials never did figure out who did it?

RAMOS: No, I believe they did. I knew they had an investigation going, and I believe they told me that, yes, they did. I think they go five of them.

DOBBS: So the got them all.

RAMOS: To my understanding.

DOBBS: All right, let me ask you about something else that Debra Canoff (ph) said in her closing arguments, referring to the statement by Aldrade Babylon (ph). He said he heard Compeon call him `a Mexican piece of shit' in Spanish, and then she said, "That's what Osvaldo (ph) heard first. It has deteriorated so much," she said, "with those two agents on the border, that they're calling people of their same ethnic background `Mexican shits.'" Do you recall her saying that?

RAMOS: Um-hmm. (Affirmative.) Yes, I do.

DOBBS: What went through your head when she said that?

RAMOS: First, I thought it was absurd, because in ten years, I've never had to curse at anybody there on the border to do anything that I have needed them to do. And of course, it was just one more thing to I guess to try and sway the jury, and it just one of those things, now that I'm hearing more and more, it's the same thing I think they did and said to Gary Rugman (ph).

DOBBS: That they did what?

RAMOS: To Gary Rugman (ph), the Border Patrol agent that was just released. You know, I think it's a tactic, to try and sway the jury -- Look what they're doing, now they're even cursing at the immigrants.

And I was there, you know, when Agent Compeon was trying to get him to stop. He never said that, and he never cursed at him. Mr. Davle (ph) was just totally noncompliant, and he wasn't going to listen to anything we had to say. He was just going to keep going.

Mr. Dobbs, they're telling me I have to cut this interview now, so --

DOBBS: All right. Well, I certainly appreciate your time, Ignacio, and --

RAMOS: Well, thank you, Mr. Dobbs.

DOBBS: And we'll stay in touch. And keep up the good fight.

RAMOS: Thank you, sir. And now that I got a chance to talk to you personally, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your help and support that you've given us from the very, very beginning.

DOBBS: Well, we're delighted to be supportive and we're proud to support you. So hang in there.

RAMOS: Thank you, sir. I hope to meet you in person one day.

DOBBS: I look forward to it.

RAMOS: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: Thank you.


Ramos and Compean

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, former Border Patrol agents, are serving time for a shooting incident along the Mexican border.

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