To understand the potential political impact of an emerging story on the U.S.-Mexico border, in which an Arizona rancher is accused of killing a man from Mexico, understand how it could play out.
Let's begin with the rancher.
George Alan Kelly is an old man. He's 73. He still tends to livestock on his ranch near the U.S.-Mexico border. He lives there with his wife, and she needs him to help take care of her.
He is living next to one of the most violent nations on earth, where narco-bosses and their heavily armed wolf packs roam the borderlands, trafficking people and drugs.
He is living in a time when parts of the border are pure chaos. Illegal immigration is at a record high and waves of humanity are overwhelming border towns such as Yuma and El Paso.
The U.S. federal government has done little to solve the problem.
There is fear and guns, but everything is hazy
He and his neighbors near Kino Springs live about a mile-and-a-half north of the Mexico border and just east of Nogales. The problem in their area is not as acute, and his neighbors tell Tucson's KOLD News the migrant crossings are fairly routine.
Kelly, however, sees strangers crossing his property and can't know who they are and whether they pose a threat. He's written a thinly veiled fictional version of his ranch life in which he patrols his property daily with AK-47s.
Living in the remote desert Southwest, he probably can't depend on law enforcement to get there quickly in an emergency.
So he has fear. And he has guns.
Those are some of the hazy renderings we read about Kelly, the Arizona rancher who is in jail, accused of murdering in the first degree an unarmed Mexican national on his property on Jan. 30.
Reserve judgment until there are more facts
We don't have enough facts now to know if Kelly was justified in killing Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, 48, who was identified from his Mexican voter registration card, according to the Associated Press. But we know that Cuen-Butimea's body was found very near Kelly's home.
The Daily Mail reported that U.S. federal court records "show Cuen-Butimea has had a history of illegal border crossings and deportations in and around Nogales, with the most recent documented case in 2016."
However, there are key things we don't know, such as Kelly's mental state. We don't know what led to the killing, nor just exactly how it went down. We don't know if Kelly has a history of eccentric behavior or reckless gun play.
When information is this thin, we have to reserve judgment and get more facts.
But we should not ignore the groundswell of anger building online about this so-far lightly covered story. Public officials in Arizona should brace themselves.
This could become a powder keg.
Arizona rancher's murder launched SB 1070
Thirteen years ago, a border incident like this one involving an Arizona rancher became a catalyst for the now infamous Senate Bill 1070, which made many Latinos in this state feel like they were suspects. It came to be known by its critics as the "show me your papers" law.
The law was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer and was supported by then-Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl. Public opinion polling showed broad support both in Arizona and across the United States.
The law became a cultural battle line, pitting Arizona's majority white population against its Latino citizens, who feared a target had been painted on their backs. Eventually the courts gutted the law and made it meaningless.
At the border:Why migrants from many countries are arriving
Back then, the scenario was reversed.
On March 27, 2010, an intruder shot and killed Arizona rancher Robert Krentz. The case was never solved, but investigators tracked footprints of a suspected killer back to the Mexican border.
We still don't know all the facts of the Krentz murder even after some of Arizona's best investigative reporters looked hard for answers.
But Krentz became a martyr that now-deceased Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Trump-like demagogue, used to push through sharp-edged immigration law that would have essentially turned every Arizona cop into an immigration officer.
What led to this killing? We don't know
There's a lot we still don't know about the new case that involves an Arizona rancher, George Alan Kelly, accused of shooting and killing a man on his property.
Santa Cruz County sheriff's officials discovered the dead man's body with a "visible gunshot wound" about 100 to 150 yards from Kelly's home on Jan. 30, the Nogales International reported.
The Border Patrol reported that a man named "Kelly" had alerted them at about 2:40 p.m. on Jan. 30 that there is a "possible active shooter" in the area of Sagebrush Road and "a group of people running." The caller added he "was unsure if he was getting shot at as well."
Later, the sheriff's office was called to Kelly's property at about 5:56 p.m. after getting reports of shots fired. There they found Cuen-Butimea's body, The International reports. "There was no weapon found on or near the victim."
Ominous reaction to a Daily Mail story
Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Gerardo Castillo told the newspaper they arrested Kelly because "the investigation initially revealed that he had shot in the area."
Investigators removed two assault-style weapons from Kelly's property to determine if they were used in the shooting, the (U.K.) Daily Mail reported.
In a court hearing on Jan. 31, Kelly asked a judge to reduce his bond so he could help his wife, reported The International. "She's there by herself … nobody to take care of her, the livestock. Or the ranch. And I'm not going anywhere. I can't come up with a million dollars."
A Feb. 6 story in the Daily Mail has already drawn 1,700 comments that sound a similar theme:
"Joe Biden and his crew are the ones that need to be on trial."
"I don't see the crime he committed. A serial lawbreaker was committing a crime on his property, and state law allows defense against trespass - hence he should not have been arrested or charged with murder."
"I feel sorry for those ranchers who get no help from the sheriffs in the area. He was correct to protect his family."
There may be fallout as this story develops
The accumulated facts to date in this case are strange. The hours that passed between the two calls to law enforcement raise many questions. We must demand explanation when an unarmed man is gunned down.
Arizona law strongly favors those who would defend themselves against trespassers, but you can't just kill someone because they've walked on to your property.
Arizona policymakers would be wise to pay attention to this case and how it evolves. They may be confronting it and angry constituents in the very near future.
Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: A death near the Arizona border could become a political powder keg