Arizona Sheriffs Call for Independent Investigation of "Fast and Furious" Gunwalking Scandal

Ten Arizona sheriffs -- five Democrat, five Republican -- gathered at the Arizona State Capitol on Friday to call for an independent investigation into the "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal.

The sheriffs held a news conference in front of the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial, decrying the "bloodshed" caused by the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau's poorly conceived operation.

"We're down there busting our butts every day trying to keep the American public safe," said Cochise County Larry Dever, as quoted by the Associated Press. "We are here to help defend America, whether it's beyond the border or any place north where the tentacles of these cartels reach into our communities across this nation every single day. And for our own government to be complicit in helping them conduct that business is offensive to us."

The sheriffs insisted that a special counsel be immediately appointed "to fairly investigate Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice," according to a written statement from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriffs taking part in the badged protest included:

Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu, Cochise Sheriff Larry Dever, Greenlee Sheriff Steve Tucker, Graham Sheriff PJ Alred, LaPaz Sheriff Don Lowrey, Mohave Sheriff Tom Sheahan, Coconino Sheriff Bill Pribil, Yavapai Sheriff Scott Mascher, Navajo Sheriff KC Clark and Apache Sheriff Joe Dedman.

Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio apparently wasn't invited -- or maybe he was invited, but forgot he was invited. Either way, he didn't show up on Friday.

Babeu, in his news release, says the sheriffs "are demanding the truth from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and believe that those responsible should be held criminally accountable for allowing 2,000 guns including assault weapons and 50 caliber rifles to be purchased on U.S. Soil and then turned over to the drug cartels of Mexico."

Deputies and citizens alike may end up facing "the barrel of a gun that was placed in the hands of criminals" by the ATF and Holder. Fifteen-hundred guns remain unaccounted for -- that's a lot of firepower in the hands of thugs.

The ATF plan had been to let suspected cartel members buy the guns, then track the suspects in hopes of catching crime bosses. For some crazy reason, the ATF skimped on the part where it was supposed to track the criminals. Agents complained that their bosses were to blame.

After Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot dead by a Mexican national in December, two of the Fast and Furious guns was found at the crime scene. More "walked" guns have been found at crime scenes in Phoenix, Glendale and in other states.

ATF staff has been shuffled around in the aftermath of the scandal, and Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke lost his job over it. (As New Times revealed this week, Burke's luck really ran out in August -- not only did he have to resign, but weeks earlier he'd been involved in an accident that nearly killed a pedestrian.)

"I'm outraged that our own federal government has betrayed local law enforcement by arming violent foreign criminals and it now appears evident that Attorney General Holder may have lied under oath," Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark said in a written statement.

Holder, meanwhile, said today in a letter to Congress that he knew nothing about the tactics being used in Fast and Furious.

From the CBS News article:

Holder says that his testimony to Congress, stating he first heard of Fast and Furious earlier this year, "was truthful and accurate... I have no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious prior to the public controversy about it."

With pressure from Arizona sheriffs, other law enforcement officials and the American public, an investigation may yet prove whether Holder's telling the truth or not.