The Justice Department unsealed an indictment Monday charging five people in connection with Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death — a move that drew praise as well as skepticism from lawmakers laser-focused on the case.
The developments come amid an intensifying debate over the department’s failed Fast and Furious anti-gunrunning operation. Weapons from that program were found at Terry’s murder scene — Republicans seeking documents pertaining to Fast and Furious last month escalated their probe by voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
For the first time, federal officials also revealed that Terry and the elite squad of federal agents initially fired bean bags — not bullets — at the heavily armed drug cartel crew in the mountains south of Tucson in December 2010. During the exchange, Terry was shot and killed.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, praised the department Monday for its announcement but questioned the timing.
“I applaud what they’re doing, but I condemn the timing. It’s very clear that the timing has everything to do with the House of Representatives holding Eric Holder in contempt,” Issa told Fox News.
Issa, who led the contempt push, said Justice could have been doing more to find the suspects all along — he called the timing of the FBI reward money “another example of using politics over good policy.”
In a statement, the Brian Terry Foundation also applauded federal prosecutors for taking additional steps to bring suspects to justice, but continued to call on Holder to turn over Fast and Furious documents.