Dever says Babeu didn't respond to his phone call or to an e-mail he also sent that day. The pair still has not communicated.

"Life is full of surprises, good and bad," says Dever, with a backward sweep of a hand as if to brush away Babeu. "Loyalty and trust is my big thing. I have to have that in my life, and I do. Honest, you don't have to agree with me or my politics — or even like my dogs — for us to get along. Just be straight up with me, tell me what you're really thinking."

He stops for a moment to reconsider, this lawman with a sense of humor as dry as a Cochise County drought.

On the road as a young deputy in the late 1970s.
On the road as a young deputy in the late 1970s.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (left) presented Dever with this framed photograph last year.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (left) presented Dever with this framed photograph last year.

"Helps if you like the dogs."

Larry Dever's view of illegal Latino migrants is about as conservative as you might expect of a rural Arizona sheriff with a constituency that is almost 80 percent Anglo.

Though he does express admiration for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the border in his county, Dever despises those in the federal government who "don't have a darned clue what is really happening on the ground level."

He remains appalled by "Fast and Furious," the Obama administration's disastrous "gun-walking" program, in which Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents watched but did not arrest buyers of thousands of high-powered rifles, hoping to trace the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

The ATF lost track of about 1,700 of the weapons, some of which later turned up at violent crime scenes in Mexico and in the United States. Investigators discovered two "Fast and Furious" rifles at the site of the December 2010 murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry near Rio Rico in Santa Cruz County, west of Cochise County.

"Indefensible," Dever says. "Tragically idiotic."

The sheriff worked the anti-illegal-immigration trail pretty much alone for years before it became a mainstream issue. Few politicians outside of southeast Arizona gave him more than lip service, maybe because Cochise County has a population of only about 120,000 — a minimal voting bloc statewide.

Dever says his thinking that "illegal immigration was something for the feds to worry about, not us at the sheriff's level," evolved because of what he what he saw on the job, not from any preconceived bias.

"It became clear to me after my first election that I would have to sit down with everybody, no matter where they were politically — far left, far right, closed borders, totally open borders — and do more listening than talking," Dever says. "Having gleaned everything I could through those exchanges and experiencing what I was experiencing led me to who I am now on this whole issue."

The sheriff says he knows of his hard-line image among "ACLU types who see everyone like myself who's against amnesty and open borders as racists, or whatever. They don't know me or what I'm about or what my county is about."

By 2000, Cochise County had become the funneling zone for hundreds of thousands of migrants who previously entered the United States through the San Diego and El Paso sectors. The vast majority would cross into the States and hightail it to job opportunities in the Phoenix area and beyond.

Ranchers and other residents on or near the border took a monumental hit, with their land continually getting trashed by passersby, their livestock stolen or killed, water lines slashed, and their homes brazenly burglarized.

Some of the migrants were flat-out criminals looking to score a rob-and-run on their way through El Norte. Others were far more benign, desperate for food and water after often-brutal treks to the supposed Promised Land.

The dramatic influx came as a result of what a top federal immigration official later dubbed the "unintended consequences" of a President Bill Clinton-era enforcement policy. It pushed that tidal wave of Latino migrants toward and into the Cochise County desert, whose relentless summer heat and treacherous mountains are as magnificent to behold as they are perilous.

By 1998, Dever's deputies had begun seeing a growing number of dead undocumented immigrants in the desert and mountains, as well as a decided increase in property and other crimes near the border.

Dever knew that the answer — if there was such a thing — to controlling the onslaught of migrants through his county wasn't just to "complete the danged fence," à la John McCain's oft-quoted comment as he walked along the border with Paul Babeu for a 2010 political ad.

In a 1989 New Times story, Dever, then a major with the Sheriff's Office, said about the incessant drug smuggling into Cochise County from Mexico: "They're always going to bring it across. We are a major-league transfer zone, where lots of money and dope exchange hands on a wholesale basis."

That was two years after the chief of the Border Patrol's Tucson sector was quoted in Arizona Sheriff Magazine: "Within the last year, we've been mandated by Congress to gain control of the border. And we're going to do that along the southern border, whether it's narcotics, terrorists, criminals, or whatever."

Didn't happen, and Dever says he never expected it to, then or now.

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Arizona has lost a leader of more than three decades in our law enforcement community. My thoughts and prayers today – and those of Arizonans, I am sure – are with his wife, Nancy, their children, friends and colleagues as they cope with this terrible loss

In honor of Sheriff Larry Albert Dever and his 34 years of dedicated service to the State of Arizona, and for the peace of mind he has provided the citizens of Cochise County, I have ordered that flags at all State buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset today, September 19, 2012, and again on his day of interment, for which services are pending."


@brahmresnik sheriff joe is a real a sheriff and so is the other one you named there all good


@brahmresnik You couldn't tell from Babeu's multiple TV appearances today that they ended badly.


@brahmresnik He was a good guy. RIP.


@Kit_Quemada Sure can't. Some unfinished business there.

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