The parents of slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry are blaming the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a Glendale gun shop for his death, according to legal papers filed Wednesday.
Josephine and Kent Terry are asking for $25 million in the claim against the agency that ran Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial gun-trafficking investigation that put 2,000 guns in the hands of suspected arms traffickers.
"Brian's death could have and should have been prevented by competent law enforcement personnel if those involved had simply followed ATF policy and common sense," the claim said.
A claim is a legal prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the government.
The Terrys, who are divorced, also sued Lone Wolf Trading Co., the gun shop that sold two assault rifles found at the scene of Brian Terry's slaying, west of Rio Rico on Dec. 14, 2010.
That lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, said the gun shop's owners had a legal obligation to refuse to make illegal firearms sales.
"Defendants ignored this obligation and proceeded with dozens of sales of firearms to the straw buyers for the Mexican drug cartels, realizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits from these illegal firearms sales," the lawsuit said.
A man who answered the phone at Lone Wolf on Wednesday afternoon said the owner could not speak until today.
The 65-page claim against the ATF tells Brian Terry's story, detailing his childhood, his relationships with his family and recounting stories from his life. It includes photos of Terry as a baby all the way up to his life as a member of a tactical unit for the Border Patrol.
Terry was killed when he was patrolling a remote area with three other members of the unit. The agents were searching for a so-called "rip crew" of bandits that robbed smugglers and other illegal border crossers.
When the agents came across a group of armed men, a gunfight ensued, killing Terry. Two men are in custody in the case, one of whom was wounded in the gunfire, but investigators are still searching for other possible perpetrators.
In accusing ATF of negligence, the Terrys' claim avoids laying blame on the Justice Department, of which ATF is part.
Congressional Republicans investigating Operation Fast and Furious have been focusing for months on whether top Justice Department officials knew of, approved, or even directed the operation.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, has threatened to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for his responses to the investigation.
In the claim, the parents said: "None of the media attention on this scandal or the political infighting it has caused brings Brian back or eases the family's pain over his loss. But they do take some consolation in the fact that this abominable, reckless, nonsensical ATF program has been exposed and discredited as a result of Brian's murder."
"None of the media attention on this scandal or the political infighting it has caused brings Brian back or eases the family's pain over his loss. But they do take some consolation in the fact that this abominable, reckless, nonsensical ATF program has been exposed and discredited as a result of Brian's murder."
Brian Terry's family in its claim against the ATF
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org