The 24-year-old father and husband said yes.

Dever rose within the ranks quickly and was the agency's SWAT team sergeant within a few years. Another lifelong St. David resident, Jimmy Judd, was the sheriff by then, and he'd always liked Dever, considering him respectful without being obsequious.

The centerpiece of Dever's career as a sheriff's deputy came on October 22, 1982. That morning, a shotgun blast fired by a member of a violent religious cult narrowly missed his head during a shootout in the fields of Miracle Valley, an outpost between Bisbee and Sierra Vista.

Larry Dever
Jamie Peachey
Larry Dever
Larry Dever, circa 1960, preps for his future job as Cochise County sheriff.
Larry Dever, circa 1960, preps for his future job as Cochise County sheriff.

Dever suffered shrapnel wounds to his face during the melee, which started as a large number of sheriff's deputies tried to serve arrest warrants on cult members.

The Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church was a 100-strong, all-black congregation with a charismatic woman leader who had led them to the Valley from Chicago a few years earlier.

One sheriff's deputy died several months after suffering serious injuries during the clash, and two church members died of gunshot wounds at the scene. Many deputies were injured, some seriously, after getting pummeled with metal pipes, rocks, and two-by-fours.

Scars remain from that haunting day, literally and figuratively.

For years afterward, Dever says, he pondered the magnitude of the episode, which ended after the group returned to Chicago in the aftermath of the nationally publicized shootout. He was reminded of Miracle Valley in 2005 when "Minuteman" vigilante groups moved to Cochise County to confront suspected migrants.

"We had been burned by the [state] Department of Public Safety and the state politicians during Miracle Valley and eventually got put in an untenable situation," Dever says. "We were urged to compromise [with the cult members] when compromise wasn't called for. And we trusted that people in Phoenix knew more about what to do in a crisis situation down here than we did. They didn't."

The sheriff says he feared a similar incident between deputies and Minutemen and worked hard to keep the state and feds in a secondary role, not always successfully.

"As the conflict between citizens and illegal aliens became more prevalent and intense," he recalls, "I had that same looming sense, that feeling, that atmosphere [as] before the Miracle Valley thing blew up. There were people who were thinking it would take a shootout to get [the Minutemen] to leave. But they left, and no one got killed."

Dever also has to deal with locals who are pathological haters of all brown-skinned "invaders" and who argue that deportation isn't harsh enough punishment.

This list includes Glenn Spencer, a Sierra Vista-area Mexican basher and president of the American Border Patrol, whose allies include avowed white supremacists and anti-Semites.

"I've listened to Glenn, and he goes out into a sphere that I just can't abide," Dever says. "Plain and simple, he is a bigot, even though he has the right to speak his mind and live where he wants if he doesn't break the law."

Dever goes on, "There are people in Cochise County and elsewhere who say that anybody who comes across the border just ought to be shot. But most folks down here still show compassion, even if it's gotten to the point where the aggressiveness of even the garden-variety illegal alien coming across just looking for work has increased. Our ranchers and citizens used to provide some sort of remedy with water or food, if not shelter and sanctuary. Not so much anymore, and with good reason."

Larry Dever is getting wooed during this political season like a head cheerleader before the prom by politicos seeking his endorsement, or at least a photo-op with him at the border.

Naturally, most are conservative Republicans, though an occasional Democrat drops by.

One has been Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona, a longtime acquaintance of Dever's and a onetime Pima County sheriff's deputy who went on to become a doctor and serve as the nation's surgeon general.

Of Puerto Rican descent, Carmona is in favor of immigration reform, while Dever is all about immigration enforcement.

But Carmona recently said this in his campaign literature:

"First and foremost, we need to ensure our borders are safe and secure. We need to overhaul our immigration laws and support a comprehensive approach that is practical, tough, and fair.

"That means securing the border, cracking down on drug and human smuggling, punishing companies who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and eliminating a nefarious labor market that exploits those living in the shadows of our society."

Except for the left-leaning phrase "comprehensive approach," this sounds similar to Larry Dever's position.

The sheriff says he won't give endorsements until after the primaries are completed, though it's doubtful that Richard Carmona will win his nod over Jeff Flake (if Flake beats wealthy Mesa businessman Wil Cardon).

Rich Winkler, a retired Cochise County Superior Court judge who operates a cattle ranch near the Arizona/New Mexico/Mexico borders with his wife Mary, has a unique perspective on his sheriff.

Winkler grew up in Illinois as a staunch Republican, but his allegiance to the GOP ended some time ago.

"I wouldn't vote for a Republican if you put a gun to my head," he says. "That party and its 'social conservatives' are going down into the pit with their telling us that we have to think like them or else. Not a brain cell working there. But then there's Larry."

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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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