From the first time I heard about Operation Fast and Furious - the joint operation between the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona - I thought their ill-conceived plan was naive, dangerous and doomed to fail.
The feds' grandiose plan that ran from 2009 to 2010 allowed a straw buyer, a person who makes a purchase for another person who is unable to make purchases for themselves because it would be illegal, to buy guns in Phoenix and ship them to Mexican gangsters. All in hopes of making a case against Mexican drug lords for illegal firearms possession.
When I found out they didn't even bother to tell Mexican authorities, the probable targets of the illegal firepower, I knew they didn't know what they were doing.
The project that was concocted by ranking federal officials allowed an estimated 2,000 weapons - including .50 caliber sniper rifles, the same rifle used by our special forces that can hit a target a mile away and defeat armor - and ship them to Mexico had "stuck on stupid" written all over it.
Law enforcement is about preventing crime, not growing it.
Most Mexican drug lords are already wanted by U.S. and Mexican authorities for criminal activities and face decades in prison. Most of them have yet to be found and arrested.
Fast and Furious should be renamed "Foolish and Fatal."
Guns from Fast and Furious have been linked to the Dec. 14, 2010 death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry who was killed north of Nogales. And on March 4, 2010, Fast and Furious guns were found in the possession of gangsters who attacked two Arizona Department of Public Safety officers near Phoenix.
No telling how many other violent crimes will eventually be tied to this naive debacle created by federal bureaucrats and political appointees.
Terry's family has retained former federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton to represent them in a lawsuit against ATF. No doubt there will be more lawsuits as Fast and Furious guns are linked to crimes in the U.S. and Mexico. According to a July congressional report, 122 of those guns have already been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.
And while the feds flooded Mexico with guns and hoped they'd score big, career criminals in Arizona with felony convictions and who are prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm or ammunition, are killing Arizona police officers at an alarming rate.
The last police officer killed in Arizona in May was murdered by a prohibited possessor with organized crime ties. When confronted by police he didn't hesitate to use his illegally obtained handgun to execute the officer.
In fact, many police officers killed in Arizona during recent years have been murdered by career criminals with felony convictions and who are prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.
According to the June 8, 2010 study conducted by now retired Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, 20 Arizona police officers have been murdered since 1993. Since that study was completed, two more officers have been added to that list.
Since 1994 over 40 percent Arizona cop killers were classified by ATF as prohibited possessors. Since 2003 that number jumped to over 60 percent. Eighty percent of the Arizona officers killed were in metropolitan Phoenix.
And the ATF and U.S. Attorney were chasing criminals in Mexico when there were plenty to chase at home.
Fast and Furious has been shut down. Congressional hearings are being held. The U. S. Attorney for Arizona has resigned and been replaced with a temp. The Phoenix ATF boss has been promoted. And Arizona still has a serious problems with prohibited possessors who have yet to be detected by ATF agents and aren't afraid to use their illegal firearms against citizens and police officers.
The feds' failure in Arizona extends well past the U.S.-Mexico border.
• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at email@example.com