Photo: U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry
Mexican police have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose slaying has been at the center of a U.S. congressional investigation into an alleged federal gun-running probe known as Fast and Furious.
The Public Safety Secretariat said federal police detained Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza on Thursday in the northwestern state of Sonora, adding that the suspect is believed to have killed Terry to avoid arrest on Dec. 14, 2010, in Arizona.
Sanchez Meza is wanted for extradition by the United States in connection with Terry’s murder.
In a statement, the secretariat said the FBI had offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Sanchez Meza, who was detained by federal police in the city of Puerto Peñasco.
News outlets such as CBS Evening News have reported that Fast and Furious was a botched federal undercover sting run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Phoenix field office, saying the ATF deliberately allowed weapons to be smuggled into Mexico by straw purchasers allegedly working for drug cartels, a tactic known as “gun-walking.”
The idea reportedly was to trace the weapons purchased by the illicit buyers to powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, but agents lost track of the guns and they ended up at crime scenes, including Terry’s.
CBS also said that similar gun-smuggling probes were conducted during former President George W. Bush’s administration.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted in June to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for his refusal to hand over documents relating to Fast and Furious, although legal analysts said the citation was unlikely to result in criminal charges against Holder.
Fortune magazine, however, said in an investigation published in early July that the ATF never intentionally allowed straw purchasers to traffic guns to Mexican drug mobs as an operational tactic.
Instead, agents were largely unable to stop the illegal flow of guns because they were “hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn,” Fortune said.