Agent's family prepares to sue as ATF admits mistakes

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by Stacey Delikat

azfamily.com

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 26 at 9:42 PM

PHOENIX--After another fiery day of testimony on the ATF's failed "Fast and Furious" program, the attorney of slain border agent Brian Terry says they are preparing to sue the federal agency.

"Someone made the decision to approve this program and the family deserves to know who," said Paul Charlton, the former U.S. Attorney in Arizona who is now representing the Terry family.

Terry was killed in a shoot out with illegal immigrants in the desert of Rio Rico, Arizona in December. Two of the guns recovered at his murder scene have been traced back to a gun store in Glendale, AZ.

Documents and testimony by agency insiders revealed that ATF Agent's knew those guns were among a large number being purchased by straw buyers and headed for Mexican drug cartels, but did not stop the sale.

It was part of a strategy to let low-level straw buyer offenders go in hopes of eventually catching the architects of the drug cartels.

But Operation Fast and Furious never led to the dismantling of any cartels, and instead has become a major black eye on the ATF and participating agencies.

"Brian Terry was killed because of these weapons, and we can say with almost certainty that others are going to die because these thousands of assault weapons are out in a very dangerous stream of commerce right now," Charlton said.

On Tuesday the former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix ATF field division, William Newell, was among those to testify in the second round of hearings before the House Oversight Committee.

"It is my opinion that we did not let guns walk," Newell testified.

He did however admit that Fast and Furious lacked oversight.

"The whole plan was to take out the organization, but I realize there are times when I should have conducted more risk assessment," said Newell.

Charlton, who has had extensive experience prosecuting gun trafficking cases during his time with the Department of Justice, chastised ATF leaders for not taking responsibility.

"Someone needs to be held accountable, someone needs to have the courage to stand up and say 'I'm responsible for what happened here I made a decision that was wrong,'" Charlton said.

Charlton said he will file a notice of claim on behalf of the Terry family in the next week. That's a legal precursor to the formal filing of a lawsuit.
 

 

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