Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever dies in crash near Williams

WILLIAMS, AZ - Larry Dever, the four-term Republican sheriff of Cochise County, died in a one-vehicle crash near the northern Arizona town of Williams. He was 60.

Dever's death was confirmed early Wednesday by the sheriff's department.

Cochise County Chief Deputy Rodney W. Rothrock will be filling in as sheriff.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the accident, reports that Dever was driving to meet family members in the area of White Horse Lake for a camping and hunting trip when his vehicle rolled on U.S. Forest Service Road 109, approximately two miles north of the lake.

An emergency call was made by the driver of a vehicle following Dever around 6:40 p.m., according to the report.

The driver told authorities he was following Chevrolet pickup truck and for a brief time lost sight of the vehicle.

The witness then saw what appeared to be a cloud of dust and came upon the vehicle that had rolled over and was resting on its wheels.

Dever reportedly died at the scene.

The sheriff died just four days after his 86-year-old mother, Annie Mae Dever, died of cancer.

Dever was first elected to his post as the head of the county's law enforcement agency in 1996, and was last re-elected in 2008. He joined the agency as a deputy in 1976, according to the sheriff's department website.

He entered the national spotlight as one of Arizona's four border sheriffs who asked to legally defend the state's controversial anti-illegal immigration law, known as SB1070, in federal court. Cochise County, in the state's southeastern corner, shares an 83.5-mile border with Mexico and is one of the state's hot spots for illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

He said at the time that the federal government was failing to secure the border and praised the law, which includes provisions that require police to question a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws and if officers suspect the person is in the county illegally.

"If the federal government had been doing and would continue to do its job in securing the border here in southern Arizona, this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, they failed to do that, so Arizona stepped up and said, `We want to be partners. Here's a role we think we can play,"' Dever told The Associated Press earlier this year.

It was Dever's office that investigated the 2010 death of a prominent rancher whom the sheriff said was likely killed by an illegal immigrant. The killing spurred Arizona's political leadership, including Gov. Jan Brewer and its U.S. senators, to renew pressure on the Obama administration to deploy National Guard troops along the southern border.

Dever also joined other Arizona sheriffs in slamming the Obama administration over a botched federal operation that lost track of weapons sold to suspect straw purchasers for Mexican drug gangs.

Dever was born and grew up in the town of St. David. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; six sons; and 11 grandchildren.

You can read the reactions from fellow Arizona Sheriffs Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu on ABC15.com.

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