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Gunman Sentenced In 'Fast And Furious' Killing Of Border Agent

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A Mexican man convicted of murdering a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona will spend the rest of his life in prison. The murder was related to the U.S. government's controversial Operation Fast and Furious gun smuggling plan. That botched operation allowed criminals to buy guns in the United States with the intention of tracking them to criminal organizations in Mexico.

Member station KJZZ's Michel Marizco has more.

MICHEL MARIZCO, BYLINE: Sobs of relief racked the Tucson federal courtroom where Judge David Bury imposed his sentence for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The room was fraught. The dead agent's two sisters had just struggled through reading their victim impact statements describing him as a warrior and a hero. His older sister Michelle Balogh spoke outside the courthouse later.

MICHELLE BALOGH: You'd think after nine years it would get easier. It doesn't get any easier. That's how much of an impact Brian made in our family.

MARIZCO: Men in the camouflage uniform of Terry's tactical Border Patrol unit have silently attended every trial, conviction and sentencing of everyone arrested in the murder outside of Nogales, Ariz. in 2010. They filled the courtroom as the sixth defendant, Heraclio Osorio Arellanes, was sentenced. Osorio was impassive. He had been convicted on six felony counts, including first-degree murder.

Osorio and the other defendants robbed smugglers in southern Arizona's border region. They fired on the Border Patrol unit which discovered them, killing Terry. Osorio told the judge he'd been unfairly singled out during his trial. Balogh dismissed his complaint.

BALOGH: He was just using it as a cop-out. He knew what he was doing when he was out there. It wasn't his first time coming over here committing crimes.

MARIZCO: Terry's murder raised alarm when a whistleblower told Congress the guns used against U.S. agents originated from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun smuggling operation called Fast and Furious. ATF agents in Phoenix hoped that by allowing guns to be smuggled into Mexico, they could be traced to high-level cartel figures. Instead, agents lost thousands of high-powered rifles and handguns. The scandalous program has never been mentioned by federal prosecutors overseeing Terry's case.

Art Del Cueto, president of the National Border Patrol union, said...

ART DEL CUETO: I think at the end of the day, everyone's that's responsible for even, you know, walking guns into Mexico should be held responsible.

MARIZCO: The last defendant in the case has not yet been extradited from Mexico, where he is still in custody. For NPR News, I'm Michel Marizco in Tucson.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALE FALL'S "THE SONDERSONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.