A firearm linked to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ fatally-flawed gun-running program known as Operation Fast and Furious has been recovered at the scene of a deadly shootout at Mexican resort, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The gunfight between cartel operatives and Mexican authorities occurred on Dec. 18, at a beach resort located in Puerto Peñasco, which is approximately 62 miles from the Arizona border.
Mexican authorities told CNN that five suspected cartel operatives were killed, including a possibly high-ranking Sinola cartel chief.
The gun officials recovered, reported to be an AK-47 style firearm, was traced back to the Lone Wolf gun store, the Arizona-based gun shop that ATF agents exploited during Operation Fast and Furious.
The gun was purchased by a straw buyer with a connection to the cartel on Sept. 14, 2010, Fox News reported.
In response to this most recent development, the ATF released a statement taking responsibility for the carnage that has happened and that likely will continue to happen as a result of the botched sting operation.
“ATF has accepted responsibility for the mistakes made in the Fast and Furious investigation and at the attorney general’s direction we have taken appropriate and decisive action to ensure that these errors will not be repeated,” ATF said in a statement.
“And we acknowledge that, regrettably, firearms related to the Fast and Furious investigation will likely continue to be recovered at future crime scenes,” it continued.
Under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the ATF, federal agents instructed law-abiding and responsible gun dealers to sell weapons to suspected straw purchasers who had ties to known Mexican drug cartels. The goal of the operation was to trace these firearms back to cartel leaders so that law enforcement, on both sides of the border, could make one big raid.
Of course, that never happened. In part, because Mexican officials were largely in the dark about the operation. But also because DOJ and ATF leadership proved to be grossly incompetent. As congressional investigators noted in a Joint Staff Report that extensively examined the operation:
“Though many senior Department officials were keenly aware of Fast and Furious, no one questioned the operation,” the report said. “No one ordered that Fast and Furious be shut down. Instead, senior Department officials let it continue to grow.”
Consequently, approximately 2,000 firearms crossed the U.S.-Meixco border undeterred. Approximately 1,400 of those firearms are still unaccounted for.
As one might imagine, the results of Fast and Furious have been deadly. In addition to the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Brian Terry, guns linked to Fast and Furious have been found at other significant crime scenes, including: the slaying of a beauty queen, a Mexican state prosecutor, and a Mexican police chief.
In total, Mexican authorities estimate that as many as 211 people were murdered with guns linked to Fast and Furious.
Upon learning of the recent shootout in Puerto Peñasco, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who spearheaded the congressional probe into Fast and Furious along with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), released a statement condemning the White House for not publicly punishing those who oversaw the operation.
“In Operation Fast and Furious, the Mexican drug cartels found an easy way to supplement their own illegal ways,” said Grassley in a statement. “Worse yet, the Obama administration has yet to publicly hold anyone accountable for this disastrous policy.”
“Unfortunately, guns from Fast and Furious will be found in operations like this for years to come,” he added.