Longtime Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is dead at 60 after his truck went off the road in Northern Arizona while on a family hunting trip.

In his 16 years as sheriff of a border county located in one of the busiest smuggling corridors in the country, Dever, a Republican, rose to national prominence as an advocate for stronger border enforcement.

Dever was known for having a measured response to border issues, but he sharpened his tone in 2010 after his friend, rancher Robert Krentz, was killed on his land northeast of Douglas. Dever blamed the killing on the unsecured border, deducing that it was probably carried out by a cross-border criminal. The crime has yet to be solved.

The Krentz killing triggered a wave of concern about border-related crime in Arizona, and helped get Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB1070, passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer. Dever was one of Arizona’s sheriffs who asked to legally defend the state’s controversial law in federal court.

Dever also joined other Arizona sheriffs in slamming the Obama administration over a botched federal operation that lost track of weapons sold to suspect straw purchasers for Mexican drug gangs.

“We spent a great deal of time at the border with Sheriff Dever and know firsthand his long commitment to keeping the people of our state safe,” U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl said in a joint statement. “We also admired Sheriff Dever’s strength to speak out when he believed more needed to be done to secure our border. Sheriff Dever was not only a leader in Cochise County, but also across Arizona and throughout the law enforcement community. Sheriff Dever was a man of honor, integrity, and selfless service to the State of Arizona. He will be greatly missed.”

Dever died Tuesday night near Williams in Northern Arizona where he was on a family hunting trip.

Dever was driving a 2008 Chevrolet truck on a well-traveled dirt Forest Road about two miles north of White Horse Lake when the truck went off the road, said Gerry Blair, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

He was on his way to meet several member of his family at a camp site, where they were set to go hunting, Blair said. Investigators don’t know why, but Dever apparently lost control of the truck, going off the road and rolling at least once, coming to rest upright.

Dever, who was still in the truck when investigators arrived, was pronounced dead at the scene. They don’t know yet if he was wearing a seat belt, Blair said. There are no signs he was drinking or impaired, he said. He was the only person in the truck at the time of the crash.

Dever had been with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office for 34 years, with the first 20 years spent as deputy, sergeant and major. After being elected for the first time in 1996, he served four terms. He was up for re-election this November, but was unopposed.

Cochise County Recorder Christine Rhodes, a Democrat originally from St. David, lauded Dever as a "wonderful family man."

"Larry Dever will be sorely missed. He was extremely well-liked, so well-liked that nobody was bothering to run against him."

Dever was born and raised in the town of St. David, located southeast of Benson. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; six sons; and 11 grandchildren.

The sheriff died just four days after his 86-year-old mother, Annie Mae Dever, died of cancer.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @BradyMcCombs.