BY DAVE WORKMAN – A new twist in the investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Operation Fast and Furious” has produced another case that has moved the discussion from the sinister to the surreal.
Mexican authorities arrested a man identified as Jean Baptiste Kingery, who was allowed to walk away from prosecution last year despite his alleged involvement in trafficking hand grenades to the cartels. Now in custody, his case has been transferred from the US Attorney’s office in Phoenix to Los Angeles, according to CBS News.
In the middle of this story is Emory Hurley, until August the assistant US Attorney in Phoenix, and the man who allegedly allowed Kingery to walk. Hurley was transferred out of the criminal division to the civil division by Attorney General Eric Holder on the same day that Dennis Burke resigned as US Attorney in Phoenix.
Burke and Hurley were on the job during the Fast and Furious operation that allowed an estimated 2,000 guns to be illegally transported to Mexican drug cartel gunmen, although some of those guns have reportedly been recovered by authorities in this country.
But Kingery’s case has been raising eyebrows since it was first revealed by CBS and the Wall Street Journal. ATF whistle blower Peter Forcelli reportedly was “horrified” when Hurley turned down his request to arrest Kingery on federal charges relating to the acquisition and transport of hand grenade components. Hurley oversaw both Fast and Furious and the grenade investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
When he was arrested Aug. 31 by Mexican police at his home in Mazatlan, Kingery reportedly had the components to build approximately 500 hand grenades. At one time, he reportedly had the makings for 2,000 grenades. Federal authorities in Arizona were apparently tipped off about Kingery by a confidential informant who reportedly told them he had sold Kingery the materials for the 2,000 grenades.
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors allegedly allowed Kingery to walk away with the intention of possibly filing charges at a later date. However, while he was apparently under surveillance driving south to Mexico, Kingery eluded federal agents and made it across the border.
In a related development, the Los Angeles Times reported that another crime linked to Fast and Furious has been uncovered, this one involving an alleged assault on two undercover Arizona police officers in 2010. Nobody was killed in the incident, but a man identified as Angel Hernandez-Diaz, 48, goes on trial this month for aggravated assault on a police officer, driving a stolen vehicle and illegal possession of firearms. The guns—a Beretta semi-automatic pistol and a semi-automatic AK-type rifle—are reportedly linked to Operation Fast and Furious.
Hernandez-Diaz allegedly rammed the car driven by the undercover officers when the cops tried to stop them. Hernandez-Diaz and another man were in the stolen car south of Phoenix. The other man was identified as Rosario Zavala of Mexico. Hernandez-Diaz is also believed to be a Mexican national.
After ramming the police car, both suspects bailed out of the stolen Ford pickup and ran into the desert, the newspaper reported. Police found the guns in the truck.
Zavala was charged with possession of the stolen truck and narcotics possession.
Dave Workman is the Senior Editor of GunWeek Magazine