Student, activist who read poem criticizing ICE wanted in Central California homicide

California

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An undocumented man at the center of a 2019 Bakersfield immigration controversy is now wanted in connection to a homicide in Tulare County, which is located between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Tulare County sheriff’s detectives say 24-year-old Jose Omar Bello Reyes was the third man involved in the shooting death of a 58-year-old man whose body was found at a Terra Bella orchard. The victim was later identified as Douglas R. Cline.

17 News obtained documents showing a man with the same name and date of birth was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2019 just 36 hours after he read a poem critical of ICE before the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

His case gained national attention as many people believed ICE targeted Bello because of his poem, called “Dear America.”

Two NFL players contributed to pay Bello’s $50,000 bail.

We attempted to reach Bello on Monday but he remains at large.

We also reached out to former lawyers including the American Civil Liberties Union, but no comment was given by news time.

Bello also faces multiple felony drug and gun charges stemming from an arrest in September in Kern County, according to court records. He was released on bail Sept. 3.

Jesus Manjarrez, 23, and Dan Eli Perez, 38, have been arrested in the Tulare case. Both are held without bond on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Deputies say they found a dozen weapons and illegal drugs after serving search warrants at multiple locations.

Anyone with information on Bello’s whereabouts is asked to call Tulare County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 725-4194.

The ACLU in 2019 sued the government on behalf of Bello, arguing that his arrest violates the First Amendment and that ICE agents have repeatedly “targeted activists who publicly criticize its immigration enforcement practices.”

The lawsuit described Bello, a Bakersfield College student, as a prominent Kern County-based activist and vocal critic of federal immigration enforcement and detention practices.

“If left unaddressed, ICE’s actions will chill immigrant speakers from sharing criticisms of the agency at the very same time that its escalating aggression and increasing use of detention are at the center of public debate,” the lawsuit said.

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