by Mark Flatten
The man accused of initiating the drug buy that led to the 2010 death of a Chandler, Ariz., police officer made a plea bargain with federal prosecutors four months earlier to avoid a long prison term, and worked as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at some time prior to the deal erupting in gunfire.
But Chandler police did not know John H. Webber had been working with federal officials when they ran a “reverse sting” targeting a quarter-million dollars that Webber and his cohorts agreed to pay for 500 pounds of marijuana supplied by undercover officers. Had the deal gone down as planned, the police would have kept the money under Arizona’s forfeiture law.
But after the marijuana was delivered, one of the suspects opened fire with an AK-74 rifle, mortally wounding Detective Carlos Ledesma, according to police reports. Two other undercover detectives were shot, and two suspects were killed during the shootout on West Maldonado Drive in south Phoenix, about 16 miles from the Chandler border.
Chandler police did not bring in the DEA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or Phoenix police to help in the operation. If they had, any money obtained through forfeitures would have been split among the law enforcement agencies involved. It also would have given them a chance to learn one of the suspects had been working with federal agents.
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