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Slain border agent's family: Our son didn't have to die

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Brian Terry Brian Terry
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The family of a slain Arizona Border Patrol agent recently blasted Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to turn over Justice Department documents in connection to a botched federal operation known as Fast and Furious.

On Friday, they released the following statement on the death of their son, Brian Terry.

It has been more than 18 months since our son, Brian Terry, was shot and killed by a Mexican drug cartel armed by a failed U.S. Department of Justice "gunwalking" operation known as "Fast and Furious."

The pain that Brian's death has caused our family is indescribable. No matter what words we use in this letter to you, we will never be able to justly convey how much suffering we have endured. We still grieve every day, and we are resigned to the fact that the agony of his death will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Not because he didn't achieve his dreams ... not because he didn't live his life to the fullest ... and not because he didn't leave anything behind that we couldn't celebrate or remember.

Our family will be forever grief-stricken because Brian didn't have to die.

We wish we could take solace knowing that Brian died doing what he loved to do. After all, it was his childhood dream to make a career in law enforcement and become a federal agent.

As a youngster, Brian was inspired by his Uncle Bob, a Michigan police offer who would give Brian tours of the police station and share stories of what it was like to be a police officer. From then on, Brian believed he was destined for a career in law enforcement. He joined the Marine Corps after high school and served four years in Naples, Italy before becoming a police officer in Lincoln Park, Michigan - just like his uncle. But Brian's ultimate dream was to become a federal agent, and so he applied to the United States Border Patrol.

In 2007, he attended the Border Patrol Academy in El Paso, Texas, graduating as president of his class before being assigned to the Naco station near Bisbee, Arizona, only a few miles from the U.S.-Mexican border.

Brian accomplished exactly what he wanted to. But all of what he had worked for - and all our family had come to adore and love - was taken away so abruptly ... so needlessly.

On December 14, 2010, Brian was conducting operations as a member of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit in Nogales, Arizona. He and his team encountered five Mexican drug cartel bandits in the "Peck Well" area near Rio Rico, Arizona. Not knowing the bandits were carrying the latest military grade assault weapons provided by the Justice Department as part of Operation Fast and Furious, there was an exchange of gunfire and Brian was shot in the lower back.

He died on December 15, 2010. Before then, our family was expecting Brian to return home for Christmas. What we were not expecting was that he would return home in a flag-draped casket. All because of an ill-conceived government gun trafficking investigation gone horribly awry.

The Justice Department's "gunwalking" operation called for American gun dealers to sell weapons to "straw purchasers" tied to Mexican drug cartels between 2009-2011. The intention was to track the guns as they were sold to Mexican drug lords, which would theoretically lead to the arrests and dismantling of the cartels.

But that's not what happened. It turned out that there was no actual plan to track the movement of the guns as they were "walked" into Mexico.

As a result, one of our four children and as many as 200 Mexican citizens were killed with weapons connected to the operation.

Still, hundreds of guns sold as part of Operation Fast and Furious remain unrecovered, putting more brave law enforcement personnel along the border - like our son - at unnecessary risk.

Even though our son fell in the line of duty more than 18 months ago, we still don't have answers that explain why he had to die.

Unfortunately for our family and the families of others who have been injured or killed with these weapons, our son's death has ballooned into a national controversy. Currently, the House Oversight Committee is moving forward with contempt proceedings against Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General and head of the Justice Department, for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena requesting all of his communications regarding Operation Fast and Furious. Our hope is that the Justice Department is not withholding information that could expose those who are responsible for our son's death.

It has been nearly eight months since Mr. Holder was served his subpoena, and we know little more now than we did then. We think our family and Brian's memory deserve better.

So even though this government investigation drags on and prolongs our family's suffering, we are taking action.

We have established the Brian Terry Foundation not just to preserve Brian's memory and honor his service to our country, but to also help families of other U.S. Border Patrol Agents who have been killed or injured by providing ongoing emotional and financial support, establish educational scholarships, recognize the heroic efforts of current Border Patrol Agents, and raise public awareness of the flawed Fast and Furious investigation. It is also our personal mission to guarantee that any mistakes made by the Justice Department are never made again.

So please, we urge you - not just for our son, but for all U.S. Border Patrol Agents who came before him and who will come after him - to join our cause and give as generously as you can. We have to make sure that nothing like Fast and Furious ever happens again, and without grassroots support from folks like yourself, our mission fails. This failed government operation cost our son his life, but that doesn't have to stop us from saving the life of someone else's son.

In the loving and enduring memory of Brian A. Terry,

Kent Terry, Sr. and Josephine Terry

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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