No Death Penalty for Illegal Alien Charged With Murder of U.S. Man Grant Ronnebeck, Arizona Court Rules

August 17, 2019 Updated: August 17, 2019

A court in Arizona has rejected an appeal to have the death penalty served for a Mexican illegal alien charged with the murder of young store clerk, Grant Ronnebeck.

In July, a judge ruled that illegal alien Apolinar Altamirano, 34, was not eligible for the death penalty due to being intellectually disabled. Judge Michael Kemp said that Altamirano had a fifth-grade education and could not get special education owing to his circumstances growing up in Mexico at the time.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 prohibited the execution of those who are intellectually disabled.

Kemp last year ruled that prosecutors could not mention in court that Altamirano is an illegal alien who has been staying in the United States for more than 20 years. He reportedly said that the prejudice that could arise from knowing Altamirano’s illegal status would outweigh any relevance it may have, according to The Associated Press.

Arizona’s Court of Appeals this week denied efforts from prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Altamirano. Prosecutors filed an appeal in July.

Altamirano is charged with fatally shooting Ronnebeck on Jan. 22, 2015. Ronnebeck, then 21, was working as a clerk at a QuikTrip, a convenience store in metro Phoenix.

Ronnebeck’s father, Steve Ronnebeck, was quoted by The Daily Wire in June recounting the incident. According to his account, Altamirano had dumped change on the counter and wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes. When Ronnebeck proceeded to count the change, Altamirano insisted on taking the cigarettes and then produced a gun, at which point Grant handed him the cigarettes. However, as soon as Grant did so, Altamirano shot him in the face.

“He [Altamirano] then stepped over Grant’s body, grabbed a couple more packs of cigarettes, stepped back over Grant and turned and looked at my son. He wanted to make sure he was dead because if he wasn’t, he was going to shoot him again. These are stories that are happening every single day,” Steve Ronnebeck said in June.

“I made a promise right after Grant died that I was gonna keep fighting for Grant and fighting for the American people. Well, what the American people don’t understand is it’s gonna happen to them or to somebody they know at this point with so many people coming across our border,” the angel dad added.

Angel parents Mary Ann Mendoza and Steve Ronnebeck, board members of We Build the Wall, at the official opening of the new half-mile section of border fence built at Sunland Park, N.M., on May 30, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Altamirano is also allegedly a member of the Sinaloa Cartel, and at the time of having shot Ronnebeck, he was out on bond. The Sinaloa Cartel runs drug distribution hubs in large cities including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago, according to the DEA.

Altamirano has already been sentenced to six years in prison for earlier guilty pleas in the case to misconduct involving weapons.

The case against Altamirano has been cited by President Donald Trump, who has railed against crimes committed against American citizens by immigrants who come into the United States illegally.

Angel dad
Angel dad Steve Ronnebeck on a visit to the White House. (Steve Ronnebeck)

Steve Ronnebeck is running for an Arizona Congressional seat. He said he would focus on border security, jobs, and reaching across the aisle if elected.

“Our nation is in crisis. Our southern border is in crisis. And our constitution is in crisis,” he said in early August.

He said he’d push for quality education, better and more jobs, and bring in new schools to help educate young adults, the unemployed, and the underemployed.

Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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