“Fast and Furious” again rears its ugly head as a gun from the bungled operation to track Mexican drug cartels was traced to a December crime scene at a beach resort near the Arizona border.
On Dec. 18, a cartel-related shootout took place on Sandy Beach, a tourist zone of the Sonora beach resort Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), a frequent vacation spot for Arizona residents, leaving five people dead. Authorities traced to the incident another gun that the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of when it dispersed 2,000 weapons as part of the Fast and Furious campaign to track down high-level Mexican drug traffickers.
"It was a full military assault," said Steve Heisler, an American who lives near Sandy Beach with his wife and was sleeping at the time of the shooting. "Those guys were on a mission and serious about who they were going after."
The idyllic paradise of the beach resort was broken by hours of gun fire and grenade explosions, with Mexican authorities stepping in with helicopters to attack the fleeing criminals. Sonora state police reported that the five dead were suspected cartel gunmen, including high-level cartel enforcer Macho Prieto.
Fast and Furious guns have also been found in connection to the murders of the brother of a Mexican state prosecutor and a beauty queen, in addition to U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, CNN reported. The Obama administration has issued no public comment on the botched operation, leaving Congress to assign blame.
A Justice Department inspector cleared Attorney General Eric Holder of wrongdoing after House Republicans sanctioned him for contempt of Congress when the White House refused to give up documents about the operation. The DOJ ruled that the ATF and Phoenix U.S. attorney’s office deserved the bulk of the blame for poorly overseeing the operation.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) led the probe.
Sen. Grassley said in a statement Tuesday, "In Operation Fast and Furious, the Mexican drug cartels found an easy way to supplement their own illegal ways. 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."
Meanwhile the ATF has acknowledged its part in the debacle, and expects that the December Puerto Peñasco shootout will not be the last violent scene involving a gun that it was supposed to track.
It said in a statement, "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. And we acknowledge that, regrettably, firearms related to the Fast and Furious investigation will likely continue to be recovered at future crime scenes."