Top ATF Officials in Phoenix Replaced in Wake of "Gunwalking" Scandal


Bill Newell, formerly the head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau in Phoenix, is among several top ATF officials who have been reassigned following a "gunwalking" scandal.

Newell has been replaced by former Detroit Special Agent in Charge Tom Brandon.

The scandal involves an operation called "Fast and Furious," in which ATF agents monitored sales of weapons at local gun stores to buyers who were suspected criminals.



While the idea was to let some guns "walk" and gather intelligence about the criminal organizations engaged in weapons trafficking, at least 2,500 guns ended up in the wrong hands, not to be recovered.

An assault rifle that "walked" in the program was the weapon used in December to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry near Nogales. Had the rifle not been part of the program, the killer would have probably found another way to become armed. But the main point of the program was to keep weapons from smuggling organizations, so in that case, "Fast and Furious" was a failure.

Two other agents, including one who oversaw the program, were also transferred out and replaced with out-of-town guys.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern