Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever's Death Conjures Friendships that Were Strained or Non-Existent

Death has an odd way of manipulating memories.

While the death of Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is evoking standard heartfelt condolences to his surviving family members, reactions from two particular camps in neighboring Pinal County also are altering reality.

See also: Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County Dies in One-Car Wreck

See also: Larry Dever Is a Real Arizona Sheriff

Consider Southwest Border Sheriffs, a shadowy group with close ties to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu that is being investigated for allegations it unlawfully influenced local elections.

Dever called it "fraudulent."

With a black band stretched across a Cochise County sheriff's badge, the group announced on its website that it is "deeply saddened" by Dever's death.

That message posted on September 19, the day after Dever died in a single-car crash near Williams was followed by:

"Although we did not always see eye to eye on many things. But all in all we are in the same fight and on the same side. We mourn the loss of a true patriot and fellow law enforcer. Larry Dever will be sorely missed by many!..Rest In Peace Hero!"

The message dismisses how Dever himself described the group to the Arizona Republic in August.

Dever said to the daily newspaper that he didn't believe the group had "legitimate ties with law enforcement," and instead was "trying to benefit" from similarities to an existing organization: the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition, whose membership includes sheriffs from all 28 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. Dever, whose county includes the border region, was a member of the coalition.

Dever said Southwest Border Sheriffs "co-opted our badges and symbols and put it on their releases and made it sound and look like it was an extension of our group. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

"When I found out who the leader of the group is, I sent him off a nasty gram and said, 'You need to cease and desist pretending to be something you're not and using the word sheriff in anything you're doing, period, because you haven't been authorized to do that,'" he said. "It's a fraudulent publication."

And, not surprisingly, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, also made the rounds on local media to talk about his reaction to Dever's sudden death.

On various talk shows, Babeu emphasizes that he and Dever were friends and that he co-chaired the Border Sheriff's Coalition (the real one) with the Cochise County sheriff.

Babeu doesn't mention that he and Dever had a falling out after New Times disclosed that Babeu's ex-boyfriend -- a Mexican national -- alleged Babeu made threats against him, and that the sheriff and his attorney wanted him to sign an agreement to keep silent about their relationship.

It was a messy affair that involved the Pinal County sheriff's sending half-naked photos of himself, posting sexual details about himself on a hook-up site for gay men, and texting menacing statements to his former lover. Both men have since been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in simultaneous state investigations.

And none of it sat well with Dever.

It's unclear who removed Babeu's photo and biographical information from the Border Sheriff's Coalition website -- but it had been taken down and only Dever was listed as founder of the group.

Dever opened up to former New Times writer Paul Rubin, telling him that he felt blindsided by Babeu, who owed much his credibility to his association with Dever.

"Paul's life is his life," Dever told New Times. "But if he wants to be a public official in Arizona, well, that might not be playing out for him as he planned. I didn't see it coming, but . . . he might have told us [sheriffs] something about his personal life if it was that loosey-goosey. We were blindsided. I'm not big on that."

Dever also revealed that Babeu never returned his phone calls after New Times' story on Babeu broke.

More from Larry Dever is a Real Arizona Sheriff:

Last year, Babeu gave Dever a large, exquisitely framed photograph of the two of them alongside U.S. Senator John McCain at a press conference.

Babeu scribbled a few thoughts about Dever on the photo with a silver marker: "You're a great friend and excellent sheriff. Thanks for all your mentoring."

Dever never did find a place for it in his Bisbee office, instead sticking it against a wall, facing inward.

"Symbolic in hindsight, huh?" he said to Rubin, allowing himself a wry smile. "Paul is someone I am not comfortable with at this point."

But on that Saturday morning in February, as Babeu was about to face the media to try to keep the scandal from spinning out of control, Larry Dever reached out with his morning phone call.

Dever says he wasn't sure what he was going to say, but he just couldn't fathom why a popular lawman and aspiring congressman would be so dumb as to post provocative photos and reveal intimate details of his sex life -- on gay websites, no less.

Dever says he also was struggling with the revelations about Babeu's homosexuality, which he says he knew nothing about until reading the story.

Dever says Babeu didn't respond to his phone call or to an e-mail he also sent that day.

"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."

That was straight from Larry Dever's mouth.

But Babeu's version of history no doubt plays better on right-wing shows.