Se­na­tor: Probe guns from Mex­ico shootout

Austin American-Statesman - - NEWS - Byadri­ana Gomez Licon

MEX­ICO CITY — A U.S. se­na­tor is urg­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether two guns re­cov­ered at the scene of a shootout in Mex­ico that killed a beauty queen were part of the U.S. gun-smug­gling op­er­a­tion known as Fast and Fu­ri­ous.

Sen. Charles Grass­ley, a Repub­li­can from Iowa, said in a state­ment that he re­ceived trac­ing in­for­ma­tion on a semi-au­to­matic pis­tol and an AK-47 as­sault ri­fle re­cov­ered in Mex­ico’s Si­naloa state at the scene of a Nov. 24 shootout that killed at least three peo­ple, in­clud­ing 20-year-old beauty queen Maria Su­sana Flores Gamez.

He said one weapon was pur­chased by the key straw buyer in Fast and Fu­ri­ous and the other ap­par­ently by the main ATF agent who ran the botched op­er­a­tion, in which agents let sus­pected straw gun buy­ers walk away from shops in Ari­zona with weapons in hopes of catch­ing traf­fick­ing king­pins work­ing for drug car­tels.

The law­maker wants to know if the guns were bought in con­nec­tion with Fast and Fu­ri­ous, an op­er­a­tion in which U.S. agents lost track of about 1,400 of the 2,000 weapons in­volved.

Grass­ley’s of­fice said Thurs­day that he re­ceived the doc­u­ments from whis­tle-blow­ers; he was not avail­able to com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the se­na­tor, the two guns are part of Mex­ico’s probe of the shootout in the town of Caitime, where the beauty queen was killed.

The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice in Mex­ico has said a run­ning gun­bat­tle erupted when sol­diers ar­rived in the town to find armed men had in­stalled an il­le­gal check­point. The troops chased the gun­men, who then holed up in a house. Three men were de­tained there but oth­ers es­caped and shoot­ing con­tin­ued un­til they were stopped on a road out­side town.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Flores Gamez was in one of the gun­men’s ve­hi­cles. A fed­eral of­fi­cial has said she got out of the ve­hi­cle with a gun in her hands and was used as a shield by gun­men so sol­diers wouldn’t fire. An AK-47 was found near her body, and tests in­di­cated gun­pow­der residue on her hands, au­thor­i­ties say.

A gun-trac­ing doc­u­ment made pub­lic by Grass­ley says an AK-47 con­fis­cated af­ter the shootout was traced to Uriel Patino, the sus­pect iden­ti­fied by the U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral as the top straw gun buyer in the Fast and Fu­ri­ous op­er­a­tion. It’s not clear whether the gun found next to Flores Gamez was the one traced to Patino.

Guns pur­chased in the Fast and Fu­ri­ous op­er­a­tion have been found at crime scenes in Mex­ico and the U.S.

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