Prosecutors in the trial of a murdered US Border Patrol agent are trying to keep details about guns found on the murder scene from the jury because of their connection to a scandal-ridden federal program.
Between 2006 and 2011, the Arizona field office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) used a tactic known as “gunwalking” in a secretive program known as Operation Fast and Furious. During that time period, the ATF purposely allowed licensed firearm dealers in Phoenix and Tucson to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, with the hope of later tracking them to Mexican drug cartels.
The operation turned out to be an embarrassing failure for the Bureau, as the ATF ended up losing track of 2,000 weapons. Since then, the Mexican government has claimed that some of these firearms have turned up in at least 10 crime scenes in that country.
Two of these guns were also found at the scene of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death, and now case prosecutors are trying to keep the guns out of trial proceedings.
Terry was a member of an elite Border Patrol unit, BORTAC. In December 2010, the team was sent to an area outside Nogales, Arizona, to search for a rip-off crew that was roaming the border region to rob drug smugglers. During the operation, a gunfight broke out, and Terry was shot and killed at the scene.
Crime scene evidence also included two variants of AK-47, which came from a gun store in Glendale, Arizona, directly linking the weapons to the notorious Fast and Furious Operation.
Terry’s killers, Ivan Soto Barraza and Jesus Lionel Sanchez Mesa, will both stand trial in Tucson. On Monday, case prosecutors filed a motion to keep any mention of the guns associated with the Fast and Furious Operation out of court proceedings.
“The defendants should be precluded from mentioning Operation Fast and Furious,” Monday’s filing read, according to News 4 Tucson.
“Informing the jurors in this case of the connection between the firearms and the ‘Fast and Furious’ Investigation will serve no legitimate purpose because that connection is irrelevant to the charges against the defendants,” prosecutor Laura Duffy added in the filing.
The attempt to preclude the firearms found at the crime scene, despite the acknowledgement of their connection to the rip-off crew responsible for Terry’s death, has indicated to some that the prosecution is attempting to cover up the embarrassing ATF operation.
“I would ask you. Does it make any reasonable, rational, logical sense to separate the probable murder weapon from the murder case, unless you are trying to cover something up?” Jeff Prather, a former DEA agent worked alongside the ATF, told News4.