Why John Dodson blew the whistle on Fast and Furious

When the final chapter on Fast and Furious is eventually written, Special Agent John Dodson of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms will be one of the story’s (very few) heroes


Special Agent John Dodson of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) went to the border intent on doing his part to stop gun trafficking. Sadly, he would discover his most formidable adversaries were not the Mexican Cartels, but supervisors within his own agency. 

After John Dodson served in military intelligence with the United States Army, he was honorably discharged, and entered law enforcement as a night shift “road dog” with the Orange County (Va.) Sheriff’s Department. 

Dodson loved being a part of a team whose members made their own decisions and investigated their own cases. “We did it all.” He explained.

As his career progressed, he became an investigator with the Loudon County (Va.) Sheriff’s Department, working undercover as a part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. 

His job was to buy drugs often and to work his way up the ladder. 

“Make the case and get the hell out,” was what undercover was about. 

In spite of his primary assignment in drug investigation, he found himself assisting at the scene of the Pentagon Attack on September 2, 2001 and the D.C. Sniper case in 2002. 

After Dodson was hired by the ATF in 2004 he was assigned to the Harrisonburg, Virginia office. In 2007 he was sent to assist at the scene of the Virginia Tech Massacre. He said that he will never forget the cell phones ringing in the victims’ backpacks as frantic family members tried in vain to verify that their loved ones were OK. They weren’t.

While in Harrisonburg, Agent Dodson’s most satisfying case was his pursuit of a serial bank robbery suspect. The investigation led him to a suspect’s house at exactly the time the suspect was returning from a bank robbery. 

As the suspect entered the house, Dodson called for backup. Before his backup could arrive the robber exited the house and headed for his vehicle. 

Instinctively, Dodson took the suspect into custody by himself, preventing his escape. 

Dodson had to chuckle the next day when a witness was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “Thank God for the FBI.”

Fast and Furious
In September 2009 Special Agent John Dobson moved to Phoenix after he was selected to join Strike Force Special Group VII. Upon arriving he was immersed in an in progress program called “Fast and Furious.” 

John immediately learned that “Fast and Furious” facilitated the sale of a variety of weapons — including AK and AR knock-offs with folding stocks to enhance their conceal-ability to “Straw Buyers.” These are people with no criminal records, who are paid by criminal organizations in Mexico to purchase quantities of weapons and “walk them,” across the border for them.

John realized immediately that although strong cases were built against the “Straw Buyers,” nothing was being done toarrest them. The only follow-up being done was to document their recovery at the scene of the “last crime” where the weapons were used.

Gun shop owners expressed concerns to John’s supervisors about who was getting the weapons. The owners emphasized they would not be selling to these people if they were not cooperating with ATF. Dodson’s supervisors assured them not to worry, saying, “We’re on it.”

Dodson found himself continually sounding the alarm that they were not “on it.” At one point he told his supervisor in the presence of other members of his unit, “How many guns have we flooded the border with? How much crime down there are we responsible for? We are just as culpable as if we had sold them ourselves. We’re never going to get anywhere with this case. We’re never going to climb the ladder.”

Dobson asked his superiors if they were ready to explain to the family of a Border Patrol Agent or Cochise County Sheriff’s Deputy at a funeral for their loved one that the weapon used to kill them was a gun provided to the criminal as a result of an ATF program. 

For his efforts, Dodson was repeatedly chastised and eventually transferred out of Special Group VII.

Dodson Becomes a Clairvoyant
Then it happened. 

On December 14, 2010 Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in a gunfight with a “Rip Crew.” 

Within 24 hours of the tragedy, a fellow ATF Agent told John Dodson that “Fast and Furious” weapons were involved.

The Unarmed Truth
In his book The Unarmed Truth, My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious, John Dodson outlined in great detail how the ensuing cover-up unfolded.

Agent Dodson knew that it would be easier for him to do nothing, but he felt compelled to do what he knew was “the right thing.”

John eventually appeared in front of a Congressional hearing and told the unvarnished truth.

This investigation brought an official end to “Fast and Furious.” It resulted in the first time in history an Attorney General of the United States was cited for Contempt of Congress. The investigation was stymied when the President of the United States sealed subpoenaed documents, claiming “Executive Privilege.”

The question never answered remains: “Why was the ATF directed to facilitate gun trafficking to the Cartels, and whose idea was it?”

I asked John Dodson — someone I think is a modern-day Frank Serpico — “Why did you choose to do the right thing, even though you knew it would be much easier to go along to get along?”

John explained, “I did it for Brian Terry’s family. They deserved to know the truth.”

He added, “I did it for my family as well. I want to always be the man my son believes me to be.”

About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

  1. Tags
  2. Police History
  3. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms
  4. ATF
  5. Special Agent John Dodson

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