Rep. Duncan D. Hunter speaks at Town Hall meeting in Ramona. Photo by Chris Stone

Rep. Duncan Hunter is urging President Donald Trump to pardon two former U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a drug smuggler as he fled from them.

Hunter, a Republican who represents East County, said he believes Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were unjustly punished for doing their jobs when they shot Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks in 2005.

“These agents were in the process of apprehending an illegal alien smuggling over 700 pounds of drugs into our country,” the congressman said. “In the course of a struggle, and in what appeared to be the suspect brandishing a weapon, these agents fired their guns and hit him in the backside as he escaped back into Mexico.

“Rather than reward these agents for their $1 million seizure, a U.S. attorney offered the drug smuggler immunity in exchange for testimony to prosecute and convict them,” Hunter said. “I’m calling on President Trump to … give these agents their lives back.”

On his last full day in office, former President George W. Bush commuted the ex-agents’ sentences. Each man had been in federal prison about two years at the time, serving 12- and 11-year sentences, respectively. They were out of custody within two months of the president’s executive action.

Compean and Ramos had spotless records until they were convicted of assault with a firearm resulting in great bodily injury and obstruction of justice, according to Hunter.

Davila, he said, admitted transporting marijuana on the day of the confrontation with the agents and was convicted a few years later of smuggling- related charges for separate attempts to move drugs into the country. He’s now serving a nine-year sentence in federal prison.

The agents chased the Mexican national on foot, and Compean wrestled to get Davila into handcuffs before the suspect slipped away from him. The agents later said they believed Davila was armed and opened fire in self-defense. Prosecutors argued they concocted the story and conspired to cover up the shooting that night and afterward.

According to Hunter, presidential pardons for Compean and Ramos would permit them to start over with a clean slate without felony records that hinder employment opportunities.

The congressman said he was inspired to act on the ex-agents’ behalf after Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of disregarding a federal judge’s order to end ethnic profiling of Latinos.