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Which Gun Killed Agent Brian Terry?

Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
U.S. Border Patrol.
Brian Terry

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Photo courtesy U.S. Border Patrol.

Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Somewhere in a FBI evidence room is a single bullet, identified as Q6. It's the bullet used to kill Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

And since then, nobody has been able to conclude which rifle fired that bullet.

I've long awaited the FBI's announcement that they had more suspects in Brian Terry's murder. But I didn't expect the Feds to ask for the public's help, especially now. After all, the case is more than a year and a half old now. But with Q6 in mind, I also grew curious about the guns found at the crime scene.

The newly unsealed documents given out by FBI Special Agent James Turgal and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy give a good level of insight into the weapons and may help unravel some of the mystery behind the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gunwalking scandal, Operation Fast and Furious.

We've always been told that two of the guns found at the crime scene came from that operation. But just how many guns were there?

On Dec. 23, 2010, nine days after Terry was shot, an FBI ballistics team released its first report on the guns. They researched two gun magazines and five cartridges. They also looked at the bullet that killed Terry and two guns. The guns are identified as K2 and K3. They are a rifle with serial number 1983-AH3977 and a second rifle with serial number CZ3775 (keep this second serial number in mind).

Those were the only two guns found at the scene.

So I looked through the newly released indictment and Count 15 struck me. It reads: POSSESSION OF A FIREARM BY A PROHIBITED PERSON and was filed specifically against Manuel Osorio-Arellanes. He is the only man currently in custody who has been charged with murder.

The firearm he was carrying, according to the indictment, had serial number 1971CZ3775. He allegedly also carried 25 rounds of 7.62 ammunition; the type of ammunition fired by an AK-47 or its variant.

Now, in the original affidavit, Osorio-Arellanes told investigators he was carrying a gun but never fired it.

According to the original affidavit filed days after the murder: "All of the individuals were armed, to include Osorio-Arellanes. Osorio-Arellanes stated that he had raised his weapon towards the Border Patrol agents, but he did not fire because he had realized that they were Border Patrol agents. At this time, he was shot."

The bullet that killed the agent is identified in the FBI's report as Q6. The investigators determined it could have been fired by a gun "like" those they had in possession. But, they wrote, "due to a lack of sufficient agreement in the individual microscopic marks of value, it could not be determined if the Q6 bullet was fired from the barrel of the K2 or K3 rifles."

Short of a fresh investigation into the bullet and the two guns, we may never know who fired the fatal shot.

We do know, at least according to the indictment, that investigators only found two weapons. And they both came from Fast and Furious.

But we may also never know just how many Fast and Furious gunwalking rifles were actually used that night.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.