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AZ sheriffs call for Holder to resign in wake of Fast and Furious

Pima County Sheriff Paul Babeu (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Ten Arizona sheriff’s today called for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration to appoint a special lawyer to investigate Operation Fast and Furious, a program that allowed thousands of guns to get into the hands of Mexican cartels.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, standing with his fellow sheriffs in front of the Fallen Officer Memorial in Wesley Bolin Plaza, said Attorney General Eric Holder can’t look into the matter because he’s lied about his involvement.

Holder told a congressional committee in May 2011 that he had just learned about Fast and Furious a few weeks before his testimony, but recent news reports have indicated that documents show he was briefed about it in July 2010.

“We’re here as sheriffs to call for the truth,” Babeu said.

Sheriff Tom Sheehan of Mohave County said getting to the bottom of the Fast and Furious will also honor the memory of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed Dec. 14 in a border gunfight.

Two weapons traced to Fast and Furious, which began in November 2009 and operated out of the Arizona office of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, were found at the crime scene.

The goal of Fast and Furious was to allow firearms that were purchased by straw buyers, or people who could legally buy them, to get into the hands of drug cartels as a way to track them to high-ranking members.

A congressional investigation of the operation has turned up evidence that ATF lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to it.

The U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, resigned Aug. 30, a few weeks after giving secret testimony to Congress.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said Burke was a good man who served as the fall guy.

“He is not the ultimate responsibility for this,” Dever said. “Whoever made these decisions is well above his pay grade and are denying that fact. Who it is needs to be held accountable and that’s all we’re asking.”

Other county sheriffs who called for the investigation were Greenlee Sheriff Steve Tucker, Graham Sheriff PJ Alred, LaPaz Sheriff Don Lowrey, Coconino Sheriff Bill Pribil, Yavapai Sheriff Scott Mascher, Navajo Sheriff KC Clark and Apache Sheriff Joe Dedman. They represented a mix of Democrats and Republicans.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio didn’t attend the press conference Friday and wasn’t part of the group of sheriffs who were calling for the special counsel.

Tim Gaffney, a Pinal County Sheriff spokesman, said Arpaio was asked to join, but he had a scheduling conflict.

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