Was Border Patrol agent Brian Terry killed by a gun bought in Phoenix?

The Arizona Republic reports that the guns used in the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry may have come from a Phoenix gun shop. And maybe that the feds looked the other way while the guns were smuggled into Mexico:

Phoenix-area gun store, ATF sting may be linked to shootout
Senator links gun buy to border agent’s death

by Dennis Wagner – Feb. 1, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Bandits who gunned down a U.S. Border Patrol agent during a December firefight near Nogales may have been armed with assault rifles purchased from a Valley gun store in conjunction with a federal sting operation and subsequently smuggled into Mexico, according to a key member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In letters to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, suggests that negligence by federal agents who failed to keep the firearms out of Mexico may have played a part in the slaying of Agent Brian Terry, a member of the Border Patrol’s elite tactical unit known as BORTAC.

Grassley said he had information that the AK-47s recovered at the shooting scene were traced to Project Gunrunner, an ATF program designed to stem the illegal flow of U.S. guns to Mexican narcotics cartels. It is not unusual for law-enforcement agents to allow illegal transactions to occur so that they can follow contraband, identifying ringleaders and key players in organized-crime organizations.

“Members of the Judiciary Committee have received numerous allegations that the ATF sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers, who then allegedly transported these weapons throughout the southwestern border area and into Mexico,” the senator wrote in a letter Thursday to acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson.

“According to the allegations, one of these individuals purchased three assault rifles with cash in Glendale, Arizona, on January 16, 2010. Two of the weapons were then allegedly used in a firefight on December 14, 2010, against Customs and Border Protection agents, killing CBP Agent Brian Terry.”

A source within the justice system familiar with the case confirmed to The Arizona Republic last week that one or two weapons recovered from the border shootout had been traced to Lone Wolf Trading Co., a Glendale gun store, but did not confirm they were part of Project Gunrunner.

Terry and his teammates were hunting for rip crews, robbers who target illegal immigrants and smugglers, when they spotted five armed men near Rio Rico. The Republic source, who requested anonymity, said BORTAC agents called out, “Policia!” and attempted to arrest the suspects. When the shooting started, the source said, agents returned fire with non-lethal bean bags, then bullets.

One suspect was wounded, but four others ran off in the confusion, disappearing into the night. Agents swarmed the area and conducted a search, locating several men who claimed to be illegal immigrants unconnected to the gunbattle. According to the justice-system source, FBI agents now believe that those detainees were telling the truth and that four assailants escaped across the border.

Six weeks after the murder, no one has been charged, although the source said an indictment was expected against the wounded suspect.

Grassley has requested a briefing from the ATF, adding that he had received documentation in support of the allegations.

“There are serious concerns that the ATF may have become careless, if not negligent, in implementing the Gunrunner strategy,” he wrote.

ATF Director Melson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Tom Mangan, an ATF spokesman in Phoenix, said he was “unaware of any guns allowed to go south of the border,” either intentionally or inadvertently. “I am not aware of any internal investigation that’s going on regarding Project Gunrunner.”

Manuel Johnson, an FBI agent in Phoenix, declined to comment, as did the U.S. Border Patrol.

At a Phoenix news conference last week, the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced indictments of 34 people in connection with firearms smuggling to Mexico. Bill Newell, ATF special agent in charge for Arizona, said five separate cases, all part of Project Gunrunner, demonstrate the corruptive reach of Mexican cartels using straw buyers to acquire guns in Arizona for illegal shipment south.

After the news conference, Newell was asked if agents purposely allowed firearms to enter Mexico as part of an investigation. He answered, “Hell no.”

However, he said, suspects under surveillance sometimes elude agents, which could result in guns winding up in Mexico.

Although Grassley’s letter does not specify which Glendale store sold the assault rifles used in the shooting, transaction details match information in a 53-count indictment against Jaime Avila, identified as the leader of one Arizona smuggling ring.

In a statement Monday, Lone Wolf owner Andre Hunter said he has been cooperating with authorities. “We have worked closely in conjunction with several federal agencies,” Hunter wrote.

Note: There’s a lot of new stuff in the Republic story about the shooting incident we haven’t heard before like the other guys caught just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

From the Washington Post:

ATF gunrunning probe strategy scrutinized after death of Border Patrol agent

Two AK-47 assault rifles purchased by a man later arrested in a federal gunrunning investigation turned up at the scene of a fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent in December, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Whistleblowers who have contacted a U.S. senator allege that federal agents allowed guns, including the AK-47s, to be sold to suspected straw buyers who transported the weapons throughout the region and into Mexico.

More..

Here is the link to Senator Grassley’s letters. 

It has been very strange how the feds have clammed up about the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Many have suspected he might have been a victom of “friendly fire”.  Now it is looking like Terry may have been killed by a gun the feds let slip into the hands of the drug cartel….can this story get any worse?

About Hugh Holub

Attorney and writer.
This entry was posted in 2nd amendment, atf, border patrol, border patrol tucson sector, border security, brian terry, department of homeland security, mexican drug cartels, project gunrunner and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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