Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, a likeable symbol of the lawless U.S. border with Mexico, died in a one-car crash on a forest road near Williams on Tuesday night.
The cause of accident is under investigation; media reports say Dever was on his way to a hunting trip with one of his six sons.
Dever is survived by his wife, Nancy, six sons and 13 grandchildren.
Dever was a cowboy-hat-and-boot-wearing, no-nonsense lawman whose right-wing political views were peppered with pragmatism, a politician trusted by Republicans and some Democrats.
A resident of St. David, (population: about 1,700), Dever became a deputy in 1976 and still carries scars on his face from a shootout with members of a Christian cult in 1982. Because of the county's porous border with Mexico, illegal immigration has been Dever's top issue since he was first elected in 1996. The issue became even bigger following crackdowns in California and western Arizona, causing more migrants to choose Cochise County as their route to American jobs. Dever's knowledge and experience on the hot-button issue was sought by nearly everyone trying to understand the problems of border enforcement.
Former New Times' writer Paul Rubin profiled Dever in April, in a story entitled "Larry Dever is a Real Arizona Sheriff." Here's a passage that embodies Dever's realist views:
It would be easy for me to say, 'You cross the border and we catch you, you're going to jail, line in the sand.' Not going to happen. The system can't absorb that kind of pressure. I'm not going to suggest that I'm a moderate on the whole issue, but I'm not a hawk, either," he insists. "There are shrill voices on both sides, and my job is to try to keep the lid on."
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Dever was also a staunch supporter of SB1070 who believed the federal government had failed to control the southern border.
One of Dever's political allies, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, (whose "loosey-goosey" lifestyle didn't necessarily sit well with Dever) issued the following statement from his office: "I'm shocked and saddened to hear of Larry Dever's death, he was my friend, a leader on border security and leader among Sheriffs. This is a great loss to Arizona, a true patriot has died and he will be sorely missed."
Arizona senators Jon Kyl and John McCain just released this statement:
We were deeply saddened to learn about the sudden death of our friend Larry Dever. We spent a great deal of time at the border with Sheriff Dever and know first-hand his long commitment to keeping the people of our state safe. We also admired Sheriff Dever's strength to speak out when he believed more needed to be done to secure our border.
Sheriff Dever was not only a leader in Cochise County, but also across Arizona and throughout the law enforcement community. Sheriff Dever was a man of honor, integrity, and selfless service to the State of Arizona. He will be greatly missed.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Nancy, their sons, and the rest of Dever family.