Politics

Authorities arrest another Fast and Furious suspect charged with Brian Terry’s murder in Mexico

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter

Mexican authorities say they’ve arrested one of four fugitives wanted in connection with the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza was taken into custody by Mexican federal police for allegedly killing Terry during a shootout in late 2010 in Arizona, near the Mexico border. Weapons used during the shootout had been purchased by a member of a gun-smuggling ring with the knowledge of United States officials as part of the ATF’s attempted sting operation Fast and Furious.

Back in July, shortly after he was voted on a bipartisan basis into criminal and civil contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a subpoena requiring he turn over documents related to the operation, Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ unsealed the indictments of the five men charged with Terry’s murder, as well as the indictment of a sixth man charged with having lesser involvement in the crime.

Until now, four of those charged with the murder were on the lam. The DOJ and FBI offered a $1 million reward to anyone who helped the FBI with “information leading to the arrest of four fugitives.”

The other two men indicted in Terry’s murder, including the individual charged with the lesser crime, have been in custody since December 2010.

“According to the indictment, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza are charged with crimes including first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person,” the DOJ press release announcing the indictment’s unsealing said. “A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, is charged only with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.”

Mexican authorities say “Lionel Portillo-Meza” is an alias for Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza, the man they have in custody now. The other three charged with Terry’s murder remain at large.

House oversight committee ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings applauded the capture of Meza in a Saturday afternoon statement.

“This arrest is a testament to the cooperation and diligent efforts of Mexican and U.S. law enforcement, and I am hopeful that it brings the Terry family a step closer to the justice that they deserve,” Cummings said. “I promised the Terry family that I would not rest until those responsible for the murder of Agent Terry were brought to justice, and I remain committed to that goal.”

Robert Heyer, Terry’s cousin and the chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation, applauded the news of Meza’s capture, but said catching those who actually killed Terry is only half the battle.

“This is a long-awaited arrest and a great development in the murder investigation of Brian,” Heyer said in a statement. “To the extent closure can ever be realized this is an important part of the process. However, the key issue of government accountability remains. Why was the operation that killed Brian authorized and who will be held to account? These questions must be answered no matter how high we must look to get them. The family looks forward to the pending Inspector General’s report.”

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa echoed that sentiment.

“This is one more step toward justice for the family of fallen Border Patrol agent Brian Terry,” Issa told The Daily Caller. “Ultimately, not only the bandits who fired the shots, but also those who put the guns in their hands must all be held accountable.”

Next week, the DOJ’s internal Inspector General is expected to release its long-awaited report on Operation Fast and Furious. Issa has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 11, and he has invited Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify then about the report.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Horowitz wrote back to Issa saying his report may not be done in time for the Tuesday hearing.

“In a letter to Capitol Hill, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said his investigators now must pore over wiretap records, grand jury material and sealed court records to make sure nothing that should not be disclosed is inadvertently included in the final report,” the Times’ Richard Serrano wrote.

Horowitz told Issa that, because of those “legal restrictions, we cannot release the report or discuss its conclusions until the issues arising from this sensitivity review have been resolved.”

Since Holder’s DOJ ordered Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, not to enforce the bipartisan House resolution holding Holder in criminal contempt of Congress, House leaders are pursuing the civil contempt resolution. In mid-August, Issa officially filed the lawsuit challenging President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents.

Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley both believe a judge will eventually overturn Obama’s privilege assertion.

Wiretap application documents have proven senior officials in Obama’s DOJ in Washington signed off on Fast and Furious and the dangerous gunwalking tactic it used, despite repeated claims, under oath, to the contrary from Holder and others in the Obama administration.

During Operation Fast and Furious, which was organized by the ATF and overseen by the DOJ, the Obama administration sent thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via “straw purchasers” who bought guns in the United States with the intention of illegally trafficking them somewhere else. This tactic is known as “gunwalking.”

Some of those weapons were apparently used to kill Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and at least 300 Mexican civilians.

A total of 130 House members, eight U.S. senators and two sitting governors have demanded Holder resign over Fast and Furious, as has Obama’s GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

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