The elderly Arizona rancher accused of gunning down a border crosser with an AK-47 has been released on $1 million bond — helped by nearly $400,000 raised on a Christian fundraising site after GoFundMe refused to accept campaigns.
George Alan Kelly, 74, was able to post bond Wednesday after the judge in his case changed it from cash to surety, allowing him to put up his ranch in Nogales near the border with Mexico.
That is where prosecutors allege Kelly used an AK-47 rifle to shoot at several unarmed migrants on his property on Jan. 30, fatally hitting one of them as he tried to flee.
The dead man — Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48 — lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico, and has been convicted of illegal entry into the US and deported back to Mexico several times, most recently in 2016.
Prosecutors said that other men with him said they “felt like they were being hunted.”
Kelly’s case quickly sparked fevered debate, with supporters blaming the Biden Administration’s disastrous policies for border-town residents to feel at risk and needing to defend themselves.
As Kelly’s legal team fought to reduce his $1 million bond, GoFundMe shut down all campaigns — and returned money to donors — citing long-standing policies not to help defend those accused of violent crimes.
However, the Christian fundraising platform GiveSendGo has four current campaigns for Kelly, raising just over $398,000 by Friday for his legal defense and emergency support for his family.
The main one had raised more than $330,000 by Friday — despite setting out to collect a far-more modest $25,000.
“Astounding, miraculous, a blessing to the Kelly family beyond belief,” read the campaign on the site that allows supporters to give, share or pray.
“It is a tragedy that a simple farmer, who should be protected by the government has been abandoned and had to defend himself,” the fundraiser says.
“That is bad enough, but the government that caused this, now wishes to persecute him. … This man should not have to spend a night in jail.”
Another of the fundraisers that claims to have been started by Kelly’s wife of 54 years, Wanda Kelly, getting just over $4,000 of her $50,000 goal.
“Alan is a man devoted to his family, animals, and home. In his 74 years, he has been an upstanding member of his community and, more importantly, a rock to our family,” she wrote of the “humble person with simple needs.”
“Alan and I are living a nightmare. He has been accused of a serious crime, and he is innocent. … Please help Alan come back home.”
After his release this week, Kelly is due back in Santa Cruz County Justice Court in Nogales early Friday.
The evidentiary hearing is intended to determine issues of material fact in the case and allow Kelly’s defense to call witnesses.
Kelly’s attorney, Brenna Larkin, has maintained that the rancher did not shoot and kill Cuen-Buitimea.
However, she said Kelly acknowledges that earlier in the day he fired warning shots above the heads of smugglers carrying AK-47 rifles and backpacks on his property.
Kelly faces a a first-degree murder charge as well as two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly firing at the other men.
Kelly apparently drew on his borderlands ranching life in a self-published novel, “Far Beyond the Border Fence,” which is described as a “contemporary novel which brings the Mexican Border/Drug conflict into the 21st century.”
With Post wires