WILLIAMS, Ariz. (AP) -- Cochise County sheriff's officials say Sheriff Larry Dever has died in a one-vehicle accident near the northern Arizona town of Williams.
Carol Capas of the sheriff's office said in a statement that the crash occurred Tuesday evening and that the Coconino County Sheriff's office was investigating.
According to the CCSO, Dever was driving a Chevy pickup on a dirt road that leads to White Horse Lake. A driver behind Dever's truck said he saw a cloud of dust and then caught sight of the truck again after it apparently rolled off the road.
"Deputies believe that for an unknown reason the driver lost control of the vehicle causing it to leave the roadway, roll over and come to rest on the wheels," CCSO spokesman Gerry Blair in a news release.
According to Blair, Dever was on his way to meet several family members for a camping and hunting trip in the White Horse Lake area, which is about 3.5 hours north of Phoenix and nearly seven hours northwest of the Cochise County Sheriff' s Office.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told 3TV that one of Dever's six sons said Dever was actually concerned about two of his other boys who were elk hunting and had driven up to check on them. Babeu also said Dever missed Tuesday's dedication of the Naco Border Patrol Station in honor of slain agent Brian Terry, something he and other attendees considered unusual.
Dever's death comes less than a week after the sheriff's mother, Annie Mae Dever, died. She passed Friday of cancer at age 86. Her funeral is this weekend.
Cochise County shares an 83.5-mile border with Mexico in the state's southeastern corner.
Dever, who was running unopposed for a fifth term as sheriff, was among a handful of Arizona sheriffs who defended the state's tough anti-illegal immigration law and blasted the Obama administration for its handling of the federal firearms operation known as "Fast and Furious."
"I'm shocked and saddened to hear of Larry Dever's death," Babeu said in a statement Wednesday morning before sitting down one-on-one with 3TV's Javier Soto. "He was my friend, a leader on border security and leader among sheriffs. This is a great loss to Arizona; a true patriot has died and he will be sorely missed."
Dever and Babeu worked closely together on border security issues and were the two Arizona sheriffs who stood with Sens. McCain and Kyl in Washington, D.C. as they announced the McCain/Kyl 10 Point Security Plan in early 2010. They also were political allies and served as co-chairs the Border Sheriffs Association to defend Arizona sheriffs from litigation over SB1070.
“Today Arizonans mourn the unexpected loss of Sheriff Larry Dever," Jeff Flake said in a statement. "Larry was a true leader among lawmen -- committed to the law, his community, and his state. We are grateful for Larry’s quiet, effective leadership on border security and his desire to protect the residents of Cochise County and southern Arizona. Cheryl and I will miss his friendship. We offer our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Larry’s wife Nancy and the entire Dever family.”
“We were deeply saddened to learn about the sudden death of our friend Larry Dever," said Sen. John McCain and Jon Kyl. "We spent a great deal of time at the border with Sheriff Dever and know first-hand his long commitment to keeping the people of our state safe. We also admired Sheriff Dever’s strength to speak out when he believed more needed to be done to secure our border. Sheriff Dever was not only a leader in Cochise County, but also across Arizona and throughout the law enforcement community. Sheriff Dever was a man of honor, integrity, and selfless service to the State of Arizona. He will be greatly missed. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Nancy, their sons, and the rest of Dever family.”