Mexican federal police announced on Friday that they have arrested a suspect in the killing of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, the slaying at the center of the scandal over the botched US gun-smuggling probe known as Operation Fast and Furious.
Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza is one of the five men charged with killing Terry in December 2010 during a shootout in Arizona. One is on trial in the US state and the other three remain fugitives. Sanchez was arrested on Thursday in Mexico’s Sonora State.
Two guns found at the scene were bought by a member of a gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored in the Fast and Furious investigation.
In the operation and at least three earlier probes during the administration of former US president George W. Bush, agents in Arizona employed a risky tactic called gun-walking — allowing low-level “straw” buyers in gun-trafficking networks to leave with weapons purchased at gun shops. The goal was to track the guns to major weapons traffickers. During Operation Fast and Furious, many of the weapons were not tracked and wound up at crime scenes in Mexico and the US, including the Terry shooting.
In July, US authorities made a rare disclosure linked to the botched gun-smuggling probe, revealing identities and seeking the public’s help in catching the fugitives accused in Terry’s shooting.
The release of the suspects’ identities in an unsealed indictment came with the offer of a US$1 million reward for information leading to their capture.
The FBI said it was seeking information related to Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 31, Ivan Soto-Barraza, 34, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, 34, and a man identified as Lionel Portillo-Meza, which Mexican police said was an alias of the man arrested on Thursday.