AK-47s, surveillance and cash: Gun-tracking report reveals what went down in Tucson
CREATED Sep. 20, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - At times, it reads like a spy novel. Government agents surveilling, tracking suspects with carloads of firearms. Except what's described is real and often happened right here in Tucson.
The Justice Department’s review of Fast and Furious and related issues details, among other things, "Operation Wide Receiver." 9 On Your Side reported Wednesday on the botched program that came before Fast and Furious. Since then, 9 On Your Side has searched for new details in the report on Tucson’s role.
In the 510-page review, dozens of pages detail Operation Wide Receiver, run out of the Tucson office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Justice Department investigators interviewed more than 40 witnesses about the program, which ran from March 2006 to December 2007.
“Operation Wide Receiver was noteworthy because it informed our understanding of how these tactics were used by ATF more than three years before Operation Fast and Furious was initiated," the report reads.
9 On Your Side looked for examples of what went down in Tucson as part of the program. Here's one: In 2007, agents watched men purchase and load AK-47s onto a Ford Thunderbird.
"Agents followed the Thunderbird as it drove through an industrial section of Tucson but stopped when the driver made a U-turn,” the report states, “Agents later saw the car enter and exit the trailer park..."
The Justice Department investigators found ATF chose not to make arrests that day.
The events happened within Tucson and sometimes with help from city police. The report describes a time when, at ATF’s direction, Tucson police stopped a suspect's vehicle. Another time, to help, it states TPD followed a minivan "loaded with firearms." Other times, the department provided ground and air surveillance.
In another instance, agents attached a GPS device to a vehicle to track it. Some deals involved thousands of dollars in cash, according to the report.
"However,” the report reads, “during the course of Operation Wide Receiver, agents did not arrest any subjects and seized less than a quarter of the more than 400 firearms purchased."
The report states more firearms from Wide Receiver were later recovered after it ended. Also, according to the report, "although investigative activity ceased in Operation Wide Receiver by December 2007, the case sat idle with the U.S. Attorney's Office without any indictments until September 2009."