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Did flawed US policies play role in death of a border patrol agent?

Before a US border patrol agent was killed in a shootout with Mexican bandits, the agents opened fire with bean bags. Found at the scene: two guns the ATF allowed gun runners to purchase.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is facing criticism of a program that funneled illegal guns into the hands of Mexican gun runners, drug gangs, and other criminals after two of those guns were found at the scene of the Dec. 14 shooting of US border patrol agent Brian Terry by Mexican bandits in Arizona.

Under the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, gun smugglers were allowed to buy the weapons in the hopes the US agents could track the firearms to the Mexican drug runners and other border-area criminal gangs as well as build cases against the gun dealers themselves.

Also facing criticism are the rules of engagement employed by US border agents, who are trained to use nonlethal force when possible.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

The Dec. 14 shootout in Peck Canyon, near Nogales, Ariz., occurred after border patrol agents halted a group of armed border bandits and fired at them with bean bag guns. The bandits then opened fire with live bullets from AK-47 submachine guns, killing Mr. Terry.

Critics of US border patrol procedures, including Terry's family, say that Terry, a former Marine, was operating under specific Department of Homeland Security (DHS) orders that required agents encountering suspected illegal immigrants on US soil to fire nonlethal bean bags before using live ammunition.


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