$25 million claim filed in Brian Terry murder

$25 million claim filed in Brian Terry murder

CREATED Feb 1, 2012 - UPDATED: Feb 1, 2012

Reporter:  Forrest Carr

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - KGUN9 News has learned that the family of slain border patrol agent Brian Terry has filed a claim against the federal government.   The wrongful death claim accuses the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco of negligence, policy violations and a cover-up, and seeks $25 million in damages.

Terry died in December of 2010 near Rio Rico in a gunfight with border bandits.  Two guns found at the scene later were tied to an ATF operation known as "Operation Fast and Furious."  In that operation, agents deliberately "walked" firearms, letting them fall into the hands of criminals in hopes of tracking them.

In the 65 page claim filed on Wednesday, the Terry family accuses ATF of negligence.  The claim then goes on to describe the gun-walking scheme as being "directly contrary to both ATF policy and the basic principles of law enforcement."

The bulk of the claim describes Terry's family and the emotional trauma his death has caused.  In one section, the claim describes a meeting in Tucson between Border Patrol, FBI and Department of Justice officials and family members who had come to town for Terry's memorial.  The claim states that family members "were excited that they would finally get some clear answers about what had happened... But the officials gave them almost no information, and wouldn't answer the family's questions." 

In the end, the claim says, family members walked out of the meeting.  That section of the claim contains these scathing words:  "All of the family now knew that their own government - despite all the posthumous awards and memorials that it had given Brian - was now dishonoring his memory by refusing to honestly and directly answer his loved ones' questions about just how he had been killed."  

The claim accuses the feds of a cover-up, and says those actions added to the family's grief.

The Terry family has been complaining about a lack of information from the beginning.  In a series of exclusive interviews with KGUN9 News during the week of Terry's Detroit-area funeral, several family members had harsh words for border and customs officials, particularly former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who runs the department of Homeland Security.  

When reached by KGUN9 News late Wednesday, a Terry family spokesperson deferred all comment to the family attorney.  The attorney's office did not immediately return phone calls.

A spokesperson for the ATF in Washington confirmed that it had received the claim, but had no other comment.

The claim seeks 25 million dollars in damages.  It is not a lawsuit, but a lawsuit would likely follow if a settlement is not reached.

The family also filed a state lawsuit in Maricopa County against the Lone Wolf Trading company, the Glendale gun shop accused of illegally selling firearms that turned up at the site of the Terry murder.