To many, Brian Terry is just the name of the officer in the photo attached to every press release on the failed Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms program called Fast and Furious — that terrible chapter in the recent history of law enforcement.
To those who knew him, he was so much more. Brian Terry grew up in Lincoln Park, Mich. After graduating from Flat Rock High School he joined the United States Marine Corps and became a military police officer. After the Marines, there was college and then his life-long dream of becoming a police officer came true when he joined the Ecorse Michigan Police Department.
Law Enforcement immediately became his passion.
Day Two on the Job
On April 17, 2000 Brian Terry was hired by the Lincoln Park Michigan Police Department in his home town. The very next day —his second day on the job — Brian and several others responded to an in-progress active shooter at “The Senior Tower” located at the intersection of Cicotte and Electric. Kenneth Miller had already shot and killed three and was determined to kill even more.
As Brian arrived, he advanced on the shooter, who fired toward Brian. Because of Brian’s aggressive response, superior position, and command presence, Miller chose to comply with Officer Terry’s call for surrender. Brian was able to take Miller into custody without further loss of life.
For his actions on that day, Officer Terry was awarded a Certificate of Merit by the Lincoln Park Public Safety Commission for displaying “true courage” during this critical incident.
Brian believed he could achieve anything he put his mind to in life as long as he followed his own motto, which was “put in the work!” Brian had set his sights on Federal Law Enforcement. After establishing a reputation in Lincoln Park as a professional other officers could count on, Brian Terry was hired by the United States Border Patrol.
Brian’s record of excellence continued as a Border Patrol Agent. This helped him achieve his next goal, when he was accepted on the BORTAC Unit.
According to the Border Patrol, “The Border Patrol Tactical Unit was originally created to fulfill a civil disturbance role in 1984, but quickly evolved and acquired additional skill sets in high-risk warrant service, intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance, foreign internal defense training, air mobile operations, maritime operations and precise/marksmanship.”
At 38 years of age Brian became the oldest member in his BORTAC class to partake in the one month of grueling training, which was designed after the military’s Special Forces training. Brian lived up to his moniker of “Superman” during this life challenge.
As training progressed, one of the instructors thought Brian had mistakenly taken another man’s helmet and as punishment Brian was directed to “fireman carry” his partner three times around the course they were on.
Halfway through the ordeal it was discovered another officer had taken Brian’s helmet, forcing Brian to take the only helmet left. Brian was told halfway through his punishment that he could put his partner down.
Brian always felt training should be real and to him he was mentally carrying a downed buddy and setting him down at this point would be tantamount to leaving a man behind. He chose to finish the simulated rescue and completed the task in full gear and near total exhaustion.
Brian Graduated First in his BORTAC Training class, and was elected president of his class.
Brian’s Last Shift
On the night of December 14, 2010, Brian was part of a four-man team situated on a slight rise in a rugged area on the Arizona-Mexican Border North of Rio Rico called Peck Canyon. The team was on the American side watching the trails aided by night vision.
They were trying to interdict “rip teams” — heavily armed and merciless Mexican criminals who roam the border region intercepting drug mules. These Mexican Bandits cross the border into “no man’s land” to rip off money and drugs. They have been known to leave behind no witnesses.
Brian went into the darkness that night with William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza, and Timothy Keller. Approximately 15 minutes before the end of the shift, the four agents spotted five suspects armed with rifles. The BORTAC team shouted “POLICIA!”
Ruthlessly, the rip team opened fire on the officers. There was a brief firefight, during which Brian said, “I’m hit. I can’t feel my legs.”
After quiet returned to the desert night, a wounded rip team member, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was left behind. Near him were two Romanian Wassr 7.62X39 AK-47 knock-offs, which had been “walked” across the border by straw purchaser Jaime Avila as a part of the Fast and Furious program.
Brian had been struck once during the gun fight and died shortly after midnight on December 15.
Brian Terry Remembered
Two suspects are currently being held on murder charges and one suspect has been sentenced to 30 years for his part in the killing of Agent Brian Terry.
The Fast and Furious Congressional Investigation has been stymied, since the President of the United States sealed the records sought by the investigators, proclaiming “Executive Privilege.”
The “What?” of Fast and Furious was ATF facilitated the straw purchase of military grade weapons, which were allowed to be “walked” across the border, to be placed into the hands of some of history’s most violent criminals.
The “Why?” of Fast and Furious is locked away in the documents — which remain sealed by the Chief Executive.
Brian Terry is the “Who?” of Fast and Furious. He purchased the end of this deadly and indefensible program, with his life blood.
Chief Brian Hawk of the Lincoln Park Police Department remembers Brian like this. “He courageously served our citizens and his country in an honorable fashion making the ultimate sacrifice and truly is remembered as a hero.”
Brian Terry is a hero gone too soon.