Arizona Border Sheriff Remembered For Persistence
BISBEE, Ariz. -- Arizona border sheriff Larry Dever died Tuesday in an automobile accident. He will be remembered for the massive amounts of attention he brought to the U.S.-Mexico border. For more than a decade, he pressed the U.S. government to bring some order to the 84 miles of border that Cochise County shares with Mexico.
His friends and coworkers say that persistence played out in his personal life, too.
In a remote eastern corner of Cochise County, Warner Glenn opens the gate to the corral holding his mules. It’s time to feed and the barn is filled with the sweet smell of oats and hay. His hound dogs bawl in the distance.
“I’m a hunting guide and also a cattle rancher," Glenn said.
Mexico and the border lie a few miles south of here, across a long dirt stretch called Geronimo Trail Road. This lonely desert plain was a thoroughfare for illegal immigration over the past decade. That’s how Glenn came to rely on Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever.
“Oh boy. We'll miss him bad. This whole country right here is gonna miss Larry Dever. Really bad," Glenn said.
On the night he died, police say Dever was visiting relatives for a hunting trip in northern Arizona. A man following behind him on a dirt road told police he saw a cloud of dust. Dever’s truck had rolled. Police have not determined why he lost control. He was 60 years old.
He leaves behind a legacy of challenging the federal government to better secure the border with Mexico, usually by highlighting the damage illegal immigration caused to Cochise County and usually with a flippant remark thrown in for reporters.
Last year, he was challenged on his assertion that illegal migrants started a wildfire in the remote Arizona mountains. How did he know it wasn’t an American hiker or lightning that started the fire?
“It’s possible the Starship Enterprise beaming Scotty up started the fire," Dever said.
Dever was also one of the few Arizona law enforcement officials who actively defended SB 1070 and considered the Supreme Court’s support of part of Arizona's own immigration law a success. In fact, the very night he died, a judge ruled that Section 2(b), the heart of 1070, could finally go into effect.
We caught up with him on a freeway exit earlier this summer to get his reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. He was pleased, but knew a challenge would come.
"Everybody’s saying you guys are gonna go out now and start hunting illegals? Noooo. We’re not it doing now and why should we start?” Dever said at the time.
He accused the Homeland Security Department of spinning its own apprehension numbers to make the border look more tame. He quit a border security task force designed by Homeland Security, calling it a fraud. He made regular appearances on the news, always challenging Homeland Security’s claims that the border is being brought under control.
Carol Capas is public information officer for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. She said Larry Dever never pulled punches.
“That’s one of the things that we’ve been asked repeatedly is what’s the difference between the inside sheriff and the outside sheriff. There’s only one sheriff," Capas said. "He’s straight up, forthright, charismatic, all the things you could ever want in a leader and he demanded the same from his people.”
For now, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors is still determining how to manage the orders of transition. Deputy Chief Rod Rothrock will act as sheriff in the meantime.
“One of his favorite sayings, that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And I think there’s a whole bunch of us gonna end up stronger,” Rothrock said.