'Fast and Furious' death: Slain ATF agent's family speaks out

Fast and Furious weaponsOne year after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in southern Arizona, his family said it believes that if a flawed gun-tracking operation run by federal ATF agents violated any laws, then “those responsible for Fast and Furious should be held criminally liable.”

The comments came Wednesday as a Border Patrol National Honor Guard held a brief ceremony at a cemetery in Flat Rock, Mich., where Terry was raised and is now buried. He was shot late on the night of Dec. 14 last year while his Border Patrol team was working a rugged canyon south of Tucson, and pronounced dead early the next morning. Two firearms recovered at the scene were traced to Operation Fast and Furious.

The operation was run by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, part of the Department of Justice, and allowed illegal buyers to purchase firearms with the hope of tracking the weapons to Mexican cartel leaders. But authorities lost track of hundreds of guns, some of which also surfaced later at crime scenes in Mexico.

“We find it incomprehensible that members of ATF and DOJ would embark on such an egregious operation and then try to conceal the link between this failed investigation and Brian’s murder,” his family said in a statement. “Much to our dismay, no one in ATF or DOJ has come forward to accept responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious.”

Terry’s family continues to press for answers, and said, “We now believe that if it can be shown that laws were broken, then all those responsible for Fast and Furious should be held criminally liable.”

In an interview, family spokesman Robert Heyer was asked if the family supports efforts by congressional Republicans to force Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to resign.

“Somebody needs to take responsibility. I don’t know if that’s Holder,” Heyer said. “But there were individuals somewhere in DOJ and ATF that were making daily decisions and knew the risks associated with such a reckless plan. Those decision-makers are the folks that need to be held accountable immediately.”

Holder has insisted that neither he nor his Justice Department were aware of the gun-walking “tactics” in Fast and Furious. At his request, his inspector general is investigating the matter. One person has been charged in the homicide. But the criminal case remains sealed, and it's unclear whether others have been arrested.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he was “adamantly rejecting the suggestion that the FBI would in any way cover up what happened in the tragic killing of Brian Terry.” He testified that there was no third weapon found at the scene, contrary to suggestions by many critics that the FBI is withholding evidence.

“Every available necessary resource has been put on” the case, Mueller said, “and similar investigations where we lose one of our own.”

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-- Richard A. Serrano in Washington, D.C.

Photo: A Jan. 25 photo shows part of a cache of seized weapons displayed at a news conference in Phoenix. Credit: Matt York/Associated Press
 

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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