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Senator to ATF: Come clean in Terry's slaying

Senator to ATF: Come clean in Terry's slaying

Grassley: Guns in shootout came from a smuggler

The family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry "deserves better" than the information provided so far about the guns used to kill him in a border shootout, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley said in a letter this week that.

Grassley, R-Iowa, has been pursuing allegations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed a gun smuggler it was investigating to purchase and keep the weapons used in the December shootout near Nogales in which Terry died.

In a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Grassley complained that the response to his Jan. 27 letter containing the allegation has "been little more than delay and denial." Grassley stood by his assertion that members of the Judiciary Committee had received numerous reports that the ATF sanctioned the sale of three assault rifles in Glendale on Jan. 16, 2010 - two of which he says were used in the Dec. 14 gunfight that killed Terry.

"The allegations I received are supported by documentation," Grassley wrote.

He writes that Jaime Avila, arrested on Dec. 15 in connection with a gun-smuggling ring, purchased three AK-47 variant weapons from a gun dealer in Glendale on Jan. 16, 2010. The ATF entered the serial numbers of the three guns in the National Tracing Center's suspect gun database three days later, Grassley wrote. The ATF continued tracking Avila's firearm purchases over the next several months, Grassley wrote.

The serial numbers of two of the weapons recovered from the scene of the Dec. 14 gunfight matched two of the weapons purchased in Glendale, Grassley wrote.

"The Terry family deserves answers," Grassley wrote. "The whistleblowers have expressed a desire to honor agent Terry's memory by disclosing this information. The Justice Department should work to do the same. The best way to honor his memory is to come clean."

In a Feb. 4 letter to Grassley, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said the allegation is false.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the agency will review Grassley's latest letter, but added that Weich's letter already covered the issue.

Grassley's letter included an e-mail from Terry's stepmother, Carolyn Terry:

"It's hard to accept that our son was shot and murdered with a gun that was bought in the U.S. We have not had any contact from the Border Patrol or any other agents since returning home on the 22nd (of January). Our calls are not returned. I truly feel that our son's death is a cover-up and they hope that we will go away.

"That will not happen. We want to know who allowed the sale of the gun that murdered our son. Any help will be appreciated. We are the victims of this case and we want some answers."

Terry, 40, was killed during a shootout with suspected border bandits near Peck Canyon northwest of Nogales.

Four illegal immigrants from Mexico were arrested that night in the area of the shooting and two more the next day, but the U.S. Attorney's Office has not announced any criminal charges in relation to the shooting.

FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson said the investigation is ongoing.

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

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