US Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke resigns in wake of 'Fast and Furious'

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX (AP) -- U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke has submitted his resignation to President Barack Obama in the wake of fallout from a government operation dubbed Fast and Furious that inadvertently put guns in the hands of criminals.

In an email sent to his staff Tuesday, Burke said his long tenure in public office has been "intensely gratifying" and "intensely demanding."

Burke went to write  that this is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of his career and life and allow the office to move ahead.

In his letter to the president, Burke said his decision to step down was appropriate so "the office can continue its progress under new leadership."

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.

“United States Attorney Dennis Burke has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s office, first as a line prosecutor over a decade ago and more recently as United States Attorney," said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement to the media. “Under his leadership, the office has made great progress in its pursuit of justice with the creation of special units focusing on civil rights enforcement and rule of law, as well as more robust outreach to key communities, particularly in Indian Country. ...

“I am grateful to Dennis for his dedication and service to the Department of Justice over these many years and commend his decision to place the interests of the U.S. Attorney’s office above all else.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Burke's resignation is effective immediately. It's not clear what his next move will be.

According to a news release from the US Attorney's Office, Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant.

Scheel, who graduated with her law degree from University of Arizona in 1987, will serve until an interim or permanent appointment is made by either Holder or the president.

Burke's resignation came as the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tendered his resignation, as well. He will become Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy (OLP) where he will specialize in forensic science policy issues at the Department of Justice.

Both moves come after investigations into a flawed law enforcement operation aimed at major gun-trafficking networks on the Southwest border.

Burke's office was deeply involved in the ATF investigation -- Operation Fast and Furious -- which focused on several Phoenix area gun shops. Just a few days ago, he testified before a Congressional committee about his office's role in the operation.

Two of the guns the ATF allowed to be sold to smugglers turned up at the scene in Southern Arizona, where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in January 2011.

Earlier this month, the ATF revealed the agency has "become aware of 11 [more] instances" of "Fast and Furious" guns turning up at violent crime scenes.

The investigation into the operation is ongoing, but already has turned up evidence that authorities lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation.