USA –-(Ammoland.com)-“Is FBI agent Mexican ‘crime gun' source?” I asked in a July 14, 2009 Gun Rights Examiner headline upon reading a report in The New York Times that “An F.B.I. agent in El Paso has been arrested and charged with dealing guns, some of which ended up being used in gunfights between the authorities and drug dealers in Mexico…”
My initial assumption, that a crooked cop got caught, was challenged within hours by a trusted source, who told me all was not as it appeared. What follows is a summation of my coverage of the story of John Shipley. The details are confusing, and often times appear to make no sense, and even today, years after my initial report, more questions remain unanswered following the strange twists and turns this case has taken. Rather than try and repeat them all here, and creating a narrative that will be too long and difficult to follow, interested readers can consult the individual reports, linked below:
The same day I wrote my initial report, and based on my source calling my attention to discrepancies in the official story, I issued a follow-up, titled “Is FBI agent in Mexican gun case being persecuted?”
“JOHN SHIPLEY DID NOTHING WRONG! JOHN BOUGHT AND SOLD GUNS TO ENHANCE HIS COLLECTION AND TO SUPPORT HIS HOBBY!” an entry on the Shipley Legal Defense Fund website asserted.
“At this point, there is simply not enough information for me to reach a conclusion other than to say grave questions have been raised,” I wrote, “and because they involve a man's reputation and freedom, they merit being fully explored.”
To begin that process, a week later, after learning more, I asked “Is FBI agent charged with illegal gun dealing just a collector?” That’s because it wasn’t “guns” tied to Shipley that had been recovered in Mexico, it was only one gun—a Barrett .50 caliber rifle. And he’d sold that to a former El Paso Deputy Sheriff who was currently working as a detention officer. On top of that, Shipley’s activities appeared compliant with federal law as it applies to private collectors/hobbyists.
The official story now demonstrably had holes in it. Large holes.
But that didn’t stop a jury from finding him guilty in April, 2010 “on one count of importing/ manufacturing firearms and dealing firearms without a license, one count of making a false statement, and four counts of causing a firearms dealer to maintain false records.” And the family, set back but not defeated, vowed to fight on and clear John Shipley’s name.
My reporting on Shipley lapsed off for a while after that. In the interim, Shipley was sentenced to two years, which he began serving last summer. I picked up his story again in May of this year, when I reported “Appeals court denies extension in Shipley case despite strangely lost testimony.” The data disk, in the custody of the court reporter, somehow got scratched. An entire day’s testimony was lost. Shipley's lawyers petitioned the 5th circuit court for a mistrial and bond. The government’s solution was to send the case back to district court to “recreate” the lost day of testimony.
Strange enough so far. But things got stranger last week, when documentation received from a source close to the case necessitated writing a six-part series just to be able to parse out the new information into logical segments.
“Shipley documents point to more government-sanctioned gunwalking,” was the first stunning revelation, where readers were introduced to Jonatan Lopez Gutierrez, a Mexican national with a Texas driver license and a Juarez address, who bought the rifle Shipley had sold to the former deputy—in the parking lot of a gun store in a deal brokered by the FFL (with the gun delivered by a mysterious stranger, it would later be revealed)!
“Documents confirm ATF surveillance in U.S. before gun found in Mexico,” was the next report, in which readers could see courtroom transcripts for themselves to validate the FFL was cooperating with the ATF, and that they had Lopez under surveillance for months before he illegally bought the rifle.
“Reports point to ATF oversight and authorization of illegal rifle sale,” the next report concluded, based on the ATF’s interview of the then-suspect trafficker.
“This document is evidence that the ATF knew Lopez trafficked the Barrett to Mexico,” the source claimed, adding ““If [the FFL] was acting without the knowledge of the ATF, he would have been arrested and [his store] would have been closed and seized. This proves ATF was involved in the sale.”
Next, shady tactics by the government to sway the jury were detailed in “Documents show prejudicial tactics helped result in Shipley conviction.” Not only did the prosecution tell demonstrable lies in the courtroom, the judge had made prejudicial statements to the media months before the trial had begun, and blatant propaganda was used to falsely conflate Shipley’s sale of the rifle to make him appear to be a gun smuggler, even though the government knew this was not the case.
What the government did with the real smugglers proved equally instructive—or rather what they did not do, I pointed out in “Conspiracy indictments indicate sanctioned gunwalking, government lies.” After all the build-up to make Shipley appear to be a supplier to traffickers, the one gun he sold the deputy that ended up in Mexico was not included on the indictment against the traffickers!
“This is because if the ATF charged Lopez with trafficking that Barrett to Mexico, the ATF would have to provide discovery materials that would prove the ATF knowingly allowed that gun to ‘walk,’” the source explained. “Those documents would prove that [government agents] lied in Federal Court to obtain a search warrant for Shipley’s residence under the false pretext that they were trying to find out who sold the Barrett into Mexico.”
And Jonatan Lopez Gutierrez himself proved to be quite an enigma, and the last person in the world one might expect to be a gun trafficker for the cartels. “Unlikely trafficker cited in Shipley case given inexplicably lenient sentence” was the next report, where we found the indictment was limited to conspiracy charges in spite of having him dead to rights on illegal purchase, possession and sale charges, resulting in a sentence the same length as Shipley’s. Further, it was learned he was the CEO of Emmanuel Ministries in Juarez, CH, a shelter for children!
“Facts of Shipley case lead to some conclusions, much speculation,” was the last installment of the series, acknowledging that in many instances, more questions have been raised than answered by the new revelations.
“While such questions are necessary and understandable, much of the speculation is unlikely to be answered without further investigation by those with the resources, and most importantly, the inclination to do so,” I wrote. “Unless and until that happens, to include pressure to investigate by some of the political figures the family has approached, this story will be relegated to a niche readership. John Shipley’s story will remain unknown, and gun collectors and hobbyists, including those in law enforcement, will continue to remain at risk due to arbitrary interpretations of the law, self-serving prosecutions, and a ‘watchdog press’ that all too often seems content to nap at government’s feet and reserve its snarling for those who get too close.”
Unfortunately, expecting “Authorized Journalists” to do the right thing appears a futile hope. That said, my part in continuing to bring exclusive reports on new developments is continuing at this writing. Earlier today I received more documents, and my intent is to reveal another (as yet unpublished) aspect in a soon-to-be-posted update.
Stay tuned. And learn more from the Shipley Legal Defense Fund.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is a long-time gun rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He is a field editor for GUNS Magazine, and a blogger at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance. Read more at www.DavidCodrea.com.