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Maricopa Police Department

Maricopa Police Officer Ajay Wilson on patrol. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Pamela Crabajales

He loves the movie “Top Gun.”

He’d love to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a day.

He enjoys outdoor activities including camping, hunting and fishing.

He also comes from Snohomish, a blue-collar city in Washington that can be a bit cold and rainy 350 days a year.

But from 9 o’clock at night to 7 in the morning, he is Officer Wilson.

Ajay Wilson, 23, has served as a police officer for the Maricopa Police Department since June 2015.

He recognizes his grandfathers as main contributors to his pursuit of a career in law enforcement. One of his grandfathers was in law enforcement in Seattle and the other a firefighter for 28 years.

Wilson moved to Arizona at the age of 13 and attended Queen Creek High School. He was on path to college with a golf scholarship but lost interest in the sport and chose to take the road less traveled – the police academy.

OFFICER WILSON’S ADVICE TO YOUTH:
What factors should students consider when entering a law enforcement career? Students should consider the dangerous aspects of law enforcement, but realize the rewards outweigh the risks.
What traits do you feel are necessary to become a police officer? You have to be willing to learn, and to fail. Messing up on the job is how you become better if you can learn from your mistakes.
What type of education is needed to become a police officer? GED or high school diploma, and The Police Academy.
What advice can you give to prospective students wanting to enter the field? You just have to realize that you will be in the public view at all times, and that you need to make smart decisions.
What college decisions or steps should one make in order to be successful in the path for this field? All I can say is work hard to get there. Just because you fail at something doesn’t mean to give up. Don’t give up.

Enrolling at 20, Wilson was sworn into the line of duty at 21. The responsibility of being a public servant includes working the long hours. For Wilson, a 10-hour shift four days a week has been his schedule the past year or so.

“I work graveyard, and it’s odd hours. Most normal people work the 9 to 5 shift,” he said. “In law enforcement you sacrifice a lot more than people realize. Working the odd hours is tough.”

Although the hours aren’t entirely his favorite, there is never a dull moment when it comes to being a police officer.

“In law enforcement [you] just never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “For patrol, [we] respond to calls for service. That can be for anything. You know, one minute you can be doing nothing, and the next you get really busy.”

The workload doesn’t stop the officer from enjoying what he does.

“I love my job,” Wilson said. “The fact that I can, everyday, go to work and have the chance to have an influence on someone’s life, or [make an] impact on their life. It’s nice to have that opportunity to be that influential person in someone’s life.”

The start of Wilson’s career as a police officer was something that hit him harder than any previous job. It opened his eyes to the rest of the world that most people were oblivious to, or for some, chose to block out. As someone whose duty is to protect and serve the citizens of the community, officers aren’t able to choose what they respond to.

“It was a culture shock,” he recalled. “A lot of the stuff that I was seeing was new to me. I grew up in a very close family [with] good family values. I see many people who are in bad situations and in a way I’m able to use my experiences to help that someone out.”

It may be the gratification knowing that this individual is making a difference in someone’s life, but for Wilson, it’s what keeps him coming back to the job knowing the dangerous and threatening situations he is exposed to.

The job may come with many rewards, but, unfortunately, it comes with negative aspects, too. For public servants, at times controversies arise.

Society is always looking at law enforcement under a microscope. When asked about the current situations involving law enforcement, Wilson replied, “It’s sad to know that every profession has bad apples. Everybody is criticizing what we do. It’s sad that some people target us, but it doesn’t stop me from doing my job. I wear my [body] camera, and all my stuff is put on video. You have to be very careful. You cannot abuse the public’s trust.”

Wilson then added, “I don’t see a skin color when I show up to a house, I see a person.”


Pamela Crabajales is a journalism student at Maricopa High School.

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Photo by Mason Callejas

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

A Maricopa man has been charged with killing his wife, Olivia Cecelia Julian Figueroa, with a sword.

Miguel Figueroa, 45, was arrested Saturday night. He was booked on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and misconduct involving a weapon.

Residents of Maricopa Meadows first reported screaming to the Maricopa Police Department just after 6:30 p.m. One caller said a woman was in the bed of a Dodge pickup calling for help. MPD was unable to find the truck.

At 7:21 p.m., MPD received a call from Figueroa’s son, who said his father had assaulted him and pointed a gun at his mother while they were sitting in the pickup truck. At around 8 p.m., Figueroa’s daughter told MPD her father called her and told her he had killed their mother Olivia and left her in the desert.

Police located Figueroa at a residence near Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and John Wayne Parkway. According to the report, he was standing outside the residence “with a sword in hand and his clothing covered in blood.”

Police reported Figueroa was shouting “kill me, kill me” and “I killed her in the desert.” After he dropped the sword, he was taken into custody. According to the report, Figueroa allegedly told his mother he had killed Olivia by stabbing her multiple times.

The Dodge truck was found in a desert area near Garvey Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue. The body of Olivia Figueroa, 43, was then found more than 100 feet away with multiple wounds to the chest and arms.

The incident is being investigated by the MPD Criminal Investigation Unit. The cause of death will be determined by the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Figueroa’s bond is set at $750,000 on the assault charge. He has arraignment hearings set for Dec. 15 and Dec. 20. He had previous arrests in Pinal County on charges of possessing drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated robbery.

According to court records, the couple married in 2000.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those that are affected by this tragic event which led to the loss of their loved one,” MPD Chief Steve Stahl said. “Domestic violence is a continuing cause for concern within the City of Maricopa as well as throughout the country which will take everyone’s awareness and assistance to eliminate. The Maricopa Police Department continues to provide training, resources and partnerships to our officers and Victims Assistance personal in the on-going effort to end domestic violence crimes and break the cycle of violence.  I commend the first responding officers in their courage and restraint while taking Mr. Figueroa into custody without further loss of life.”

The Maricopa Police Department honored its own with an annual award ceremony. The Maricopa Police Foundation hosted the dinner at Province Nov. 5.

Officer of the Year: Kevin Mellor
Sergeant of the Year: Joshua Paulsen
Civilian Employee of the Year: Kimberly Clark
Volunteer of the Year: Libby Pedrazzani
Explorer of the Year: Ethan Griffin

In addition, meritorious service coins were presented to Commander James Hughes, Officer Chris Evans, IT Peder Thygesen and IT Thomas Brannon.

Guest speaker at the ceremony was FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael DeLeon.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl has tried to be a catalyst for change during his four years on the job. Photo by Jake Johnson

By Katie Mayer

A little more than 19 years into Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl’s law enforcement career, he grew disenchanted and planned to retire once he hit the 20-year mark.

At the time, Stahl was a commander with the Mesa Police Department, where morale had dipped and he didn’t see a whole lot of growth potential.

But then a new chief stepped in. Former Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief George Gascón brought big city-crime-fighting techniques, strong leadership and a heavy helping of hope to a department that so greatly needed it.

“When Chief Gascón came in, I said ‘I’m going to give this chief six months and see if he reinvigorates me,’” Stahl recalled.

It was worth the wait. Gascón’s leadership inspired Stahl to remain in his profession and set him on a trajectory to become the chief he is today.

“He reinvigorated what leadership should be and reignited that passion for police work,” Stahl said.

Stahl decided to stay – and many would say it’s a good thing he did. Because today – like the leader who once inspired him – Stahl has been the catalyst for change in a department that appeared to have lost its way. Through accountability, leadership and a strong vision, Stahl has boosted the morale of his rank-and-file, reduced crime and connected deeply with the community he serves.
chief-coffee_3-12
February marked four years Stahl has served as Maricopa’s police chief. In that time, he is credited with forming broader and deeper bonds with the community, bringing world-class training and resources to his police officers, reducing Part I crimes and providing better support for victims of domestic violence.

“I think in every aspect of what he does as a police chief, he pursues the ideal of excellence,” said Maricopa City Manager Gregory Rose. “I think that permeates throughout the rest of the police department.”

Stahl’s commitment to hard work was instilled in him early. Born in the 1,200-resident town of Redfield, South Dakota, Stahl grew up on a farm and ranch where “you worked until everything is done.” School was held in a single K-12 classroom and the nearest city was 25 miles away.

“That work ethic was drilled into me early on,” Stahl said.

After graduating from South Dakota State University, Stahl managed a water bed store and fitness center. One summer, he visited some family in Arizona and “enjoyed the heck out of” himself.

“I picked up a Sunday paper and noticed one of the leading waterbed companies was hiring,” Stahl recalled. “I interviewed and flew back home…seven days later I’m in Arizona.”

Soon, he got to know his next-door neighbor, who was a Tempe police officer. The neighbor encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement.

“I applied at Tempe and Mesa,” Stahl said, “and Mesa called first.”

During his time with the Mesa Police Department, Stahl worked in nearly every area of the department. He credits former Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead with encouraging him to branch out.

“He taught me all the jobs you have are not going to be glamorous,” Stahl said.

At first, this was a tough pill to swallow for Stahl, who had spent 15 years on the Mesa Police Department’s action-packed SWAT team.

“He also gave me those opportunities that put a glimmer in my mind that ‘Can I be chief?’ and ‘Do I want to be a chief?” Stahl said. “I would’ve never been ready otherwise.”

Like his own police chief in Mesa, Stahl stepped into a department in 2011 in need of leadership. The department had just gone through two external audits and morale was low.

In his new role, Stahl formed a vision statement, articulated his high expectations to officers and invested in their training and equipment.

“When I came here, you could tell in briefings and ride-alongs that they craved that leadership,” Stahl said. “And it wasn’t hard to (turn things around) because they are professionals.”
Stahl_Coffee-wChief_10-10_Hendrickson
He added, “Those who did what they needed to do stayed and those who didn’t went away.”

And while working on internal matters, Stahl also placed an emphasis on customer service in Maricopa. As part of his vision statement he required the officers to “make every contact excellent.” He also rolled out community engagement events such as “Coffee with the Chief,” where residents could come and have some face time with Stahl.

Chris Hashisaki, community manager at CCMC at Tortosa, said the customer service has been visible to her residents.

“I do think they are becoming more successful about creating that personal relationship with the citizens and police departments,” Hashisaki said. “We are a little ways out here, but we still get the patrol and recognition definitely from the police department and him.”

And the business community has taken notice as well.

Ace Hardware owner Mike Richey calls Stahl one of the “premier civil servants in the community.”

“I think the department clearly reflects his confidence,” Richey said. “When you’ve got somebody at the top that projects himself in the community the way Chief Stahl does, it’s a trickle-down effect – everything starts at the top.”

Although Stahl makes leadership look easy, his four years have not been without challenges. In January, an Army veteran’s widow sued the city and two police officers over the 2015 fatal shooting of her husband, who had contacted police two days earlier to talk about his post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the department has declined to talk about pending litigation, Mike Kemery, commander of the VFW, said he has been happy with Stahl and his leadership.

“One day he stopped in around lunch time at the Veterans Center, and we talked for an hour,” Kemery said. “He has been very attentive to whatever group he might be with, and he takes an interest.”

Photo by Jake Johnson
Photo by Jake Johnson

Kemery said he and his veteran victim advocate colleague have been called out to situations in the community involving veterans and have worked with police to help the veterans obtain resources.

“From a veteran’s point of view, this town is keenly aware of the veterans and they do take an interest and Chief Stahl leads the charge,” Kemery said.

Also, during a time when police departments across the country have been accused of racial bias, Maricopa Police Department has not been immune. Last year, when Maricopa police responded to a report of a jogger pushed down by an attacker described as a “black teenage male,” the department faced some scrutiny after questioning black teenagers in connection with the crime.

However, Stahl, a member of the NAACP, said he and his officers have never faced any problems related to racism and remain engaged with the black community and work closely with a civilian advisory board consisting of diverse residents of Maricopa.

“The great thing is we all have on-body cameras,” Stahl said, “so even the suspect can come in and we handle it right then and there.”

Stahl is now looking forward to even greater changes in the future, most notably, Maricopa joining the Regional Wireless Cooperative and the department taking over its own dispatching on May 5. The change means officers can now have radios reception in other parts of Arizona and communicate with other police departments.

Stahl is also working to train and promote his staff so that some day when he makes the decision to retire, there is leadership available to step up and take over.

“When I leave, if you have to look externally for a chief, then I have not done my job,” Stahl said.

Rose said he supports the chief as he prepares for the future, but hopes “he is here for a very long time.”

Although being chief means Stahl has largely sacrificed time with his wife and family, and his beloved tee times are nearly impossible to squeeze into his schedule, he calls the job “one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my career” and said he is “blessed to be here.”

“When I walk the hallway and do ride-alongs with officers and see the light in their eyes, it reminds me of the first time I pinned the badge on,” Stahl said. “It’s all about them, not about me.”


This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.

A fifth grader with a so-called "kill list" at Legacy Traditional School sparked a debate about communication policy among parents.

A purported “kill list” naming eight fifth graders at Legacy Traditional School upset parents in more ways than the obvious.

The list apparently was found March 31 in the possession of a male child during class. What happened after that has been a bone of contention.

According to one of the children whose name was on the list, she was sitting near the accused boy when another child noticed the list on his desk. It named six girls and two boys.

“I think it’s pretty mean,” she said. “You don’t know what they could do.”

She said the substitute teacher scolded the child and initially threw away the paper. The students retrieved the paper, she said, and when encountering their regular classroom teacher later in the day, showed her the note.

That is when the note went to the administration and the students targeted by the list were allowed to call their parents, she said.

Other parents, however, were upset to learn about the incident “through the grapevine” instead of directly from the school.

“This is supposed to be a zero-tolerance school,” said Jay Hall, whose child attends Legacy but was not named on the list. “I shouldn’t have had to find out about it at a ballgame. We heard he was suspended, but we should know when he comes back to school.”

Hall said the accused child’s father had spoken with other parents to try to assuage fears, but he said the school itself should have been more open with parents.

The Maricopa administrators have been unable to speak about the incident to the public, citing confidentiality of students and faculty, but a district administrator is encouraging all concerned parents to give him a call.

Bill Bressler, chief academic officer for the Legacy district, said when such a threat arises on a campus, it is policy that contact is made with the child threatened and his or her guardian. As for parents of children whose names were not on the list, not informing them was “my call.”

“There was no need to disrupt the climate of a highly functioning school,” Bressler said.

Bressler said the incident happened on a Thursday, and he was informed of it the following Monday. He said the accused child faced “consequences for infractions.”

School Resource Officer Jeff Pokrant of the Maricopa Police Department met with students and their parents to investigate the situation. MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said no charges were filed and it was not a criminal case.

“The parents were contacted, and the school took disciplinary action,” he said.

The mother of one of the children on the list said she is pressing charges and said the school should have done more to inform parents.

“Why aren’t they telling anybody?” she asked. “I’m concerned we were not informed.”

Despite rumors of access to weapons, MPD determined the accused child had no way of carrying out a threat.

Still, at least one child on the list remains nervous about being in public places.

“I don’t know why he put me on the list,” she said. “I never teased him at all.”

She said she is “50-50” about forgiving her classmate. “I only want to make sure he gets help,” she said.

Parents concerned about the incident or school policy can contact Bressler at 480-270-5438.

Residents, elected officials, police and fire personnel and many others attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Maricopa Police Department substation at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Police Department put its new substation on display for a ribbon-cutting event Tuesday. It is not fully open, yet. In fact, it’s not fully complete, at least as far as the police chief is concerned.

More than being a police presence south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the substation is the communication center for police and fire. It will use the new tower next to the Public Works fleet maintenance facility on Edison Road.

Mayor Christian Price drew attention to the Edison Road communications tower, which will allow the city to end outsourcing of its emergency feeds. “Now we’re going to be able to bring that home,” he said. “And this just helps speed things up and ultimately helps each and every one of you.

“But if we’d opened this building prior to opening up that tower, what use would it have been in that respect?”

MPD is moving into the substation, but it is not expected to be a full operation until May.

Budgeted for $4 million, the substation funds did not stretch as far as Chief Steve Stahl wanted. He pushed to get more technology.

“I think any of the law enforcement leaders in the audience will tell you, technology is at the forefront of our thoughts all the time – how can we be smarter, how can we be wiser, how can we fight crime better but not harder,” Stahl said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “That is through technology.”

Ak-Chin Indian Community kicked in $450,000 to help add technology and electronics. Chairman Robert Miguel said it was just another example in the long history of Ak-Chin and the city of Maricopa working together on mutually beneficial projects.

“We always help each other out in providing services in the best way possible,” Miguel said. He called Ak-Chin support of the substation “automatic.”

Even with the Ak-Chin aid, the substation does not have everything originally envisioned. It’s smaller, for one thing, and the police chief plans for that to change.

Stahl said the design had to “be able to be built upon in years to come and look like, when it was done, that it was all built at the same time. That was my task to the architect.”

That architect was Joseph Salvatore of Architekton in Tempe. He also designed the Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, which won the 2014 facility award from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association. The substation shares several architectural elements with that neighboring facility.

Salvatore said he was particularly pleased with the building’s aspect after dark, calling the entrance porch “spectacular” at nighttime.

“It’s such a welcoming look and feel that draws people in and brings people to the police so they can have that dialogue,” Salvatore said. “That’s the key.”

He said he also wanted to create “exciting spaces” for employees, and used interesting angles to create visual value.

“This is the very first time we’ve done that,” Salvatore said. “Dispatch is in here 24/7 and they need something special. And with the natural light we have coming in here, that enlivens the space as well.”

The building was constructed by CORE Construction, which also built Copper Sky Multigenerational Center and the fleet maintenance building.

“It’s wonderful that we’re able to extend our public safety portion of our operations south of the tracks,” City Manager Gregory Rose said. “None of this would have been possible without the leadership of our mayor and council. Without their willingness to allocate funds and set aside funds and really be committed to the project, it simply doesn’t happen.”

Copper Sky Maricopa Police Substation. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The ribbon will be cut on the new police substation at Copper Sky, the Maricopa Music Circle will perform its annua spring concert, comedian Faizon Love will be on stage, residents can look at plans for a new Palo Verde Regional Park, and much more is happening this week in Maricopa. For details on these and other events, or to add your own, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

MONDAY

Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission meeting is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Among the agenda items is a Planned Area Development at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at 44977 W. Hathaway Ave. (enter through door on right side of building)

TUESDAY

Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library is at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road. Meet every Tuesday for refreshments and conversation and get acquainted with the library. All ages welcome.

Copper Sky Police Substation Grand Opening is at 5:30 p.m. with a tour of the building housing the new communications center, 17985 N. Greythorne Drive

WEDNESDAY

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at MUSD District Office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

THURSDAY

Open House on proposed Palo Verde Regional Park is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center in multipurpose room A, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.

SATURDAY

Picacho Peak Day Hike starts from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., at 8 a.m. and returns at 6 p.m. This trip is for age 18 and up. Fee is $10 for Maricopa residents and $12 for nonresidents.

Maricopa Music Circle Spring Concert, “Dancing into Spring,” is at 7 p.m. at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, Theater 2, 16000 N. Maricopa Road, with accompanying performances from Desert Sun Performing Arts.

DT Comedy Show featuring comedian/actor Faizon Love is at 7 p.m. and 9:15 pm. in Theater 1 at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, 16000 N. Maricopa Road.

Two men who died in an altercation in an Alterra neighborhood Saturday have been identified, and Maricopa Police Department is calling it a domestic dispute.

Tony Shakir, 38, is suspected of killing Randy Phillips, 49, and then turning the gun on himself after a five-hour standoff with police.

According to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado, there had been a dispute between Shakir and his ex-wife at the Windrose Drive property. When her friend Phillips tried to intervene he was shot “multiple times at close range.”

MPD was called to the scene when the gun shots were heard in the neighborhood around 4:30 p.m. When officers arrive, Shakir’s ex-wife and her two children left the house, and she explained to them what had happened. Shakir then barricaded himself in the home.

Alvarado said after telephone contact was lost with Shakir, the Department of Public Safety SWAT team entered the home at 11:30 p.m. and found Shakir dead in the garage. A handgun was recovered at the scene.

Phillips’s body was found in the family room.

The ex-wife told MPD there was a history of domestic violence between her and Shakir, but it was not reported to police because she feared for her safety.

“Before incidents like these escalate, victims of domestic violence can come forward and seek help from law enforcement and we can put them in touch with services that can help,” Chief Steve Stahl said.

The Maricopa Police Department has not released the names of two men who were shot to death Saturday in an Alterra neighborhood.

Officers were called to a home in the 45000 block of West Windrose Drive on a report of shots fired around 4:23 p.m.

A male had been shot and a woman with two children were inside the home with the alleged shooter. After officers set up a perimeter, the woman and children ran out of the house, according the MPD spokesman Stephen Judd.

MPD began negotiating with the suspect and evacuating nearby homes. A SWAT team from the Department of Public Safety also responded.

Judd said the standoff lasted five hours.

At 11:30 p.m., the suspect was found in the garage, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officers recovered a handgun. The first male that was shot was found dead in a family room from multiple gunshot wounds.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

DPS bomb squad brought in its robot to neutralize a suspicious package at the Maricopa Post Office. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A low battery in a Bluetooth speaker that had been disposed of in a trash can outside the Maricopa Post Office made suspicious noises that resulted in a bomb squad being called in.

Hathaway Avenue was closed for several hours while the Department of Public Safety Bomb Squad sent in a robot to use blasting caps and destroy the unit.

The call came in from a Post Office customer at 9:26 this morning. She described a ticking noise coming from the trash can at a front corner outside. A postal employee and a Maricopa Police officer determined there was a ticking or thumping noise coming from the trash can.

The postmaster general in Washington, D.C., contacted MPD, and the six employees working at the Post Office were evacuated.

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said businesses in the area were given the option of evacuating or not. Some closed for several hours because traffic could not access their buildings. Hathaway was closed from State Route 347 to Wilson.

After the bomb squad blew up the package wrapped in black, it was impossible to see if there was an identifying name or address. There was enough left to determine it was Bluetooth speaker.

Alvarado said because the battery was dying it creating a thumping noise that was amplified by the dome shape of the trash can lid.

Thefts from vehicles are on the rise in Maricopa. The Maricopa Police Department is offering these crime-prevention tips:

  1. Always park your vehicle in a locked garage.
  2. Always lock the doors, even when you are away from the vehicle for a short time.
  3. Remove all valuables from your vehicle. If you can’t take personal property with you, lock items in the trunk. Do not place them under the seat. This includes your purse or wallet, navigation device, CDs, books, cash, keys, cell phone, iPod, laptop, garage door opener, gym bag, briefcase, jewelry, tools, packages, etc. If a thief breaks into your vehicle and steals your garage door opener and keys, they have access to your home.
  4. Do not leave ANY mail in your vehicle. These items have your name, address and possible contain personal financial information.
  5. Remove “pull out” style stereos and/or removable face plates of stereos.
  6. Park in well-lit areas. At home, park your vehicle near porch lights. If you cannot park in a garage, install motion detection lights which will illuminate your driveway at night.
  7. Set all alarms or anti-theft devices.
  8. If you see anything suspicious, call MPD’s non-emergency line at 520-568-3673.

The wife of the late Johnathan Guillory is suing Maricopa and Officer Joshua Hawksworth (center) and Sgt. Leonard Perez (right) for wrongful death.

Alleging that Maricopa Police Department’s own aggressive behavior resulted in the death of a local veteran, Johnathan Guillory’s widow has filed a wrongful death suit in federal court.

The suit names Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth, who shot Guillory on Jan. 18, 2015. It also names their spouses and unidentified others. A notice of claim was filed with the city, Mayor Christian Price and the named defendants in July.

The actual complaint, with demand for a jury trial, was filed in Arizona District Court on Jan. 16, just within one year of the shooting.

Attorneys David and Kathryn Lunn of Scottsdale filed the suit on behalf of Maria Garcia and Guillory’s four children. In a demand for punitive damages, they called the officers’ action “willful, malicious, oppressive and/or reckless and it was done with an evil hand.”

Garcia disputes MPD’s claim that Guillory had a weapon at the time of the incident. MPD has stated the officers feared for their lives and fired on Guillory “as trained to do.”

That police training is a central point of the lawsuit. It alleges MPD did not properly train its officers to deal with such confrontations and in fact condoned excessive force and reckless behavior by its officers.

The city does not comment on pending litigation.

Guillory was a U.S. Army veteran. He returned from his second tour in Afghanistan in 2003. He was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Garcia is also a veteran. She met Guillory in 2005, and they married in 2008. He had two children from a previous relationship.

Before Guillory’s death, MPD had already responded to emergency and non-emergency calls at the Guillory home on Garden Lane in Cobblestone Farms. He also had previous arrests involving drugs and alcohol.

The suit claims MPD had asked the community’s assistance in training officers in how to deal with subjects with PTSD, and just days before the incident Guillory went to the department to help the effort.

Then that Sunday afternoon, a 911 call apparently from Guillory’s cell phone was relayed to MPD but the caller hung up. Several police vehicles responded to the scene.

According to both the suit and police reports, Guillory walked out of his garage, away from his home and down the street toward a common area. Dispute arises over whether officers saw a weapon or an object that looked like a weapon and over Guillory’s behavior toward the officers. Police say a handgun was recovered at the scene.

He walked toward Hawksworth, who told him to “Stop walking.” What Guillory did then is a point of disagreement. No report indicated Guillory fired on the officers. Both Hawksworth and Perez shot Guillory. He was struck in the torso four times and died an hour later.

Attorneys claim in the suit, “Even though the officers knew of Johnathon’s PTSD and had been informed to approach with caution, they stormed the neighborhood, surrounded Johnathon, followed him, yelled at him, had their weapons loaded and raised, and treated him like a criminal.”

Bob Klein needed five staples to close a laceration on his head after an altercation at the dog park. Submitted

Police are seeking a man who allegedly pushed a 72-year-old man to the ground at the Copper Sky Dog Park in an altercation Saturday.

Dr. Bob Klein of the Villages was walking a small dog in the dog park at around 10:30 a.m. Two small children, reportedly against Klein’s warning, approached to pet the dog, which then nipped at them.

Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said that led to an argument between Klein and an adult male accompanying the children. The argument ended with Klein being shoved down and hitting his head on the concrete, causing a laceration at the back of his head.

The suspect then left with the children.

Though Alvarado said Klein refused medical treatment at the scene, he later went to Chandler Regional Medical Center, where the wound apparently required five staples.

Klein’s wife Colleen was shopping in Chandler at the time of the incident but told him to go to the hospital in case he had a concussion. She said her husband described the suspect as a white man in his 30s or 40s, 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-3, and 240 pounds. He had several tattoos on his neck including “111.”

Medical staff determined Klein did not have a concussion. But his family wants the suspect apprehended.

His son put out a plea on YouTube.

A city sign posted at the entry to the park warns that dogs may behave unpredictably around small children and asks adults, “Please do not bring children under the age of 12 into the dog park.”

Colleen Klein said that is what escalated the argument between her husband and the man with the small children.

Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect is asked to call Maricopa Police Department, 520-568-3673.

A portion of the sign at the Copper Sky Dog Park.
A portion of the sign at the Copper Sky Dog Park.

Police recruits gather at Maricopa High School to start the physical test during MPD training Saturday. Photo by Craig Cummins

By Craig Cummins

Dressed in gym shorts and sweats, dozens of hopefuls came to Maricopa High School today to take their first steps toward becoming the first rookies sworn into the Maricopa Police Department.

The department, which was started back in 2007, has traditionally hired police officers that already had experience in law enforcement.

“It took the department six months to become operational and we needed experienced officers to help mold the department,” said Ricky Alvarado, the department’s public information officer.

This is the second round of testing for new officers in the last year for the department. The first round ending with the potential hiring of one officer who is currently attending a post-certified police academy.

More than 50 recruits showed up to MHS’s track to take their physical fitness evaluation, known as the Cooper Standards.

The Cooper Standards is a three-part test and is a preliminary requirement for recruits and consists of a 1.5-mile run in under 15 minutes, 29 sit-ups in under one minute and 25 consecutive push-ups without a time limit.

While delivering a pre-test speech to the recruits, Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said, “As you go through this process today, there are several things that are going to happen. Obviously the first thing is this physical conditioning part, to make sure that you are of the proper physical condition to make it through the academy.

“For us here today, we’re testing you at everything. We’re watching how you dialogue with each other; we’re watching whether you support one another,” Stahl added.

Competition was tough on the track, with many of the recruits coming from backgrounds or experience close-knit to law enforcement.

One such recruit, Michael Martinez, 26, from Casa Grande, comes from a family with a history in law enforcement, including his father who has served in numerous departments across the state. Martinez himself works in corrections at the Eloy Detention Center and is looking to make the transition into a traditional police department.

“I’m trying to make a difference and see some change within the industry of what policing is,” said recruit JB Smith, 28. He is no stranger to the strict guidelines and physical standards of the Maricopa Police Department, having served active duty in the U.S. Navy, which included a deployment to Iraq.

Currently the department is looking to hire two or three new officers, meaning only the best of candidates will make it through. And while the candidates are technically in competition with one another, praises of encouragement and camaraderie were constantly heard among the hopeful future officers as they ran their laps and proved they physically had what it takes.

The physical fitness test is only the first part of a long process towards becoming an officer. After completing the physical fitness test, the recruits who passed headed to Maricopa City Hall to take a written test, which will end the first day of testing.

“The written test is mainly reading comprehension,” Alvarado said. “There are some scenario-based law enforcement questions, but nothing a reasonable person couldn’t answer. We don’t expect them to be cops yet.”

The recruits who make it through the physical and written tests will later go through a long series of interviews and background checks before they are even given the opportunity to attend an academy. While many will not make it, those who do may one day dawn the uniform of a Maricopa Police officer.

Closing his speech to the recruits, Stahl said, “You all are the cutting edge of America today. Be proud you made the first step, showing up. That’s the first step of anything – showing up.”

MPD seeks to educate residents

Photo by Devin Carson

By Michelle Chance

Serious crime in January was down 2 percent compared to last January, Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said, while all other crime decreased by 12 percent during the comparison period.

“Two percent is actually only one crime, so while one may sound insignificant, it’s one less victim out there on the street,” Stahl said during an interview at the Maricopa Police Department.

According to Stahl, more serious crimes, referred to as “Part 1 crime” by the police, include offenses like homicide, sexual assaults, and aggravated assaults. Examples of “Part 2” crimes are disorderly conduct, DUI and simple assaults.

Property crime is the biggest crime trend in Maricopa, Stahl said. Burglaries were up last month compared to January 2015. Stahl said stolen vehicles and theft from vehicles usually can be easily prevented.

“I know it’s a simple thing, but don’t park your car in the street,” Stahl said. “Park it in the driveway if you can. The best solution is to park it in your garage.”

Stahl said he and his officers work to educate the public on crime prevention during HOA meetings and during the monthly event, Coffee with the Chief, in which the public is encouraged to discuss their concerns about the department with Stahl.

It’s about communication with the public, Stahl said. “We are their guardians. If they do not trust you, you are not going to be a guardian; you are just going to be an enforcer and that is not the direction we want to be.”

Police Commander Gerald Kaphing joined the department in January and said he noticed citizens’ positive responses during public outreach events.

“They go out of their way to tell me they love their chief and what a great job the officers are doing,” Kaphing said.

In addition to promoting public awareness, Stahl said another component to crime prevention is a free house watch program run by MPD volunteers. The program is designed for citizens who go out of town for a period of time. Maricopa residents interested in the service can visit the city website for more information.

The MPD, along with City Manager Gregory Rose, are also looking into implementing surveillance cameras in high-crime areas within the city to assist the department in crime prevention. “The city manager is very supportive of it if we can find grant funding for those things,” Stahl said.

Overall, the chief said his goal for future crime prevention begins with educating youth in the community.

On May 9, the MPD Police Athletic League visited Maricopa Wells Middle School to “increase positive interaction between police officers and those who are highly impressionable,” Stahl said.

The PAL program is comprised of officers who not only offer recreational exercise for the students, but educational topics are discussed as well, according to Ricardo Alvarado, public information officer for MPD.

“There will be a component of education that will give information to the youth to make sure they make good decisions, because the decisions they make now will obviously carry on in the future for them,” Alvarado said.

Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathways have also partnered with the PAL program, Alvarado said.

A local youth was taken to Chandler Regional Medical Center with minor injuries after being slashed with a pocket knife during a fight at Maricopa’s Copper Sky Skate Park Thursday afternoon.

According to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Colt Homan, an altercation began between two 16-year-olds in the skate park, and one pulled out a pocket knife and slashed the other.

Both teens were transported to Chandler Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. The slashing victim received a cut, and the suspect had minor scrapes due to the scuffle.

The suspect was taken to a juvenile facility and booked on an aggravated assault charge.

Rumors of the incident’s origin began circulating Maricopa, but Homan clarified the incident was simply a fight between teenagers.

“Rumors of there being a drug deal were false,” Homan said. “This was just a quarrel.”

Domestic violence is a focal point for the Maricopa Police Department.

One of the Maricopa Police Department’s focuses is to limit and prevent domestic violence.

According to MPD Sgt. Leonard Perez, the department tries to prevent domestic violence before it occurs, but also holds violators accountable when it happens.

“We have to address the underlining problem because you can’t arrest away your problems,” Perez said. “We like to address prevention before it happens, and we like to focus on domestic violence.”

Over the last week, three Maricopa residents were arrested for domestic violence incidents.

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Jonah Walker and Misty Rivers were arrested for a domestic altercation. According to the police report, the couple began a verbal argument when Rivers became upset with Walker, and the dispute resulted in both parties receiving minor injuries.

According to the police report, “After making contact with both Jonah and Misty it was discovered Misty was the primary aggressor in the situation by escalating the verbal argument into a physical assault leaving scratch marks on (Walker’s) face. Misty had red marks and scratches on her face along with a bloody nose.”

Walker reportedly hit Rivers with an open hand out of self defense. Rivers then fled to a neighbor’s house, and both individuals were arrested near their home on Sheridan Road.

Walker was accused of assault per domestic violence for “going beyond the point of self-defense,” and Rivers was accused of assault per domestic violence for being the “primary aggressor.”

On Thursday, Jan. 28, MPD officers responded to another domestic violence call. David Haycraft was arrested, accused of aggravated domestic violence and assault after reportedly biting a woman who was trying to have him evicted.

According to the police report, “[The victim] said they began to argue, and the argument became heated and she was pointing her index finger at David as she yelled. She said David lunged at her and tried to bite her finger and when she pulled away, David lunged again and grabbed her and bit her in the face on the left cheek.”

Haycraft reportedly has a history of domestic violence and was booked on aggravated domestic violence and assault.

Sgt. Leonard Perez talks about fighting crime in Maricopa in this week's Spotlight interview.

Sgt. Leonard Perez of the Maricopa Police Department stopped by our InMaricopa Studio to discuss the current state of public safety in the city and how it will improve with the opening of the substation at Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex.

Like all cities, Maricopa has crime. The areas of focus for the MPD are traffic and driving conditions along State Route 347, youth crime prevention, domestic abuse and theft. However, MPD takes a proactive approach to prevent crime before it happens.

“The biggest thing is to address the underlying problem,” Perez said. “You can’t arrest away your problems. The 347 is always a challenge. There are other problems we’d like to address before they happen.”

The department has developed Community Action Teams (CAT) to combat the issues. Perez believes the Copper Sky substation opening soon will showcase the department’s transparency and allow Maricopa residents to be more comfortable addressing officers with questions and concerns.

“Being on the south end of the city allows those residents to have that direct contact with us,” Perez said. “It just creates a great bond with them, and it lets them know we are human and approachable.”

The new Copper Sky substation will also serve as a dispatch center and communications hub for the Maricopa Police Department.

This was a busy year for the Maricopa Police and Fire Departments. From tragedies to celebrations, the men and women who keep Maricopa safe had their hands full in 2015.

10. Officer Daniel Rauch named Officer of the Year

Over the last year, Officer Rauch has been an active patrol officer, was selected to represent MPD by working in a detail with the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Tempe Police Department, and was the test subject for both the MPD on-body camera program and license plate reader program. He is described by his superiors as an “Energizer bunny,” and his work with members of the community is unparalleled.

“He has this uncanny ability to talk to people,” Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said. “Whether he’s giving a citation or bringing someone to jail, people walk away enjoying their time with him.”

9. Pinal County Drug Smuggling Arrests

Throughout 2015, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, MPD and Border Patrol have arrested and deported dozens of drug and contraband smugglers attempting to pass through Maricopa. One such incident in early December saw 14 arrests over five days capture 1,382 pounds of marijuana. The smuggling issue is likely to remain a hot-button issue throughout 2016 as well.

“The fact that our deputies can arrest 14 smugglers, seize over 1,300 pounds of marijuana, assault weapons and sophisticated radios from the Mexican drug cartels, in Pinal County, in just five days, should be a wake- up call to everyone that the border is not secure,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said.

8. MPD Receives CALEA Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is a national organization that provides accreditation to law enforcement agencies when departments demonstrate a consistent adherence to “best-practice standards.”

According to a statement released by MPD in April, MPD earned its accreditation by maintaining professional excellence in terms of written directives, procedures, management decisions, preparedness, accountability, liability and risk exposure and relationship with the community.

7. PCSO Arrests 3 in Child Murder

A week before Thanksgiving, 3-year-old Tiana Capps died from blunt force trauma that occurred in an unincorporated neighborhood south of Maricopa. After investigating the death and the home situation, on Christmas Eve, Pinal County Sheriff’s personnel arrested her caretaker Shawn Main on charges of murder and abuse. They also arrested Tiana’s mother Tina Morse and a third woman, Maria Tiglao, on suspicion of abuse of four children.

Tiana’s three brothers, aged 5 months to 5 years, were removed from the home.

6. Train Hits MUSD School Bus

The Arizona Department of Transportation named the railroad crossing on State Route 347 one of the most dangerous in the state. However, members of the community saw just how dangerous the crossing is when a freight train collided with a Maricopa Unified School District bus on Nov. 5.

The accident was the realization of many residents’ worst fear for the crossing. Luckily, no children were on the bus and the driver was able to escape.

5. Body Cameras

MPD was one of the first departments in Arizona to test the use of body cameras. For months, MPD officers wore AXON body cameras from TASER Industries. The cameras were approved by the department and are now regularly used in the field.

“It’s the closest we can get to true justice,” Officer Daniel Rauch said. “By documenting the actual occurrence while it happens, we can go ahead and support ourselves in our decisions. It also documents if there’s any accusations of police overstepping their bounds, we can go and immediately pull the video so it can be viewed and released to (the accuser).”

4. Cars Crash into Lakes in Villages and Rancho Mirage

Two accidents involving vehicles driving into local lakes had very different endings. Jan. 12, a vehicle holding two female occupants drove into the lake inside the Rancho Mirage subdivision. Eileen Brown, 46, the vehicle’s passenger, was pulled from the vehicle after the driver, but she passed away at Chandler Regional Medical Center.

Sept. 9, a 59-year-old man lost control of his vehicle and launched into the lake in the Villages subdivision. The driver and his three passengers were pulled from the vehicle without serious injury. The accident was believed to be caused by a pre-existing medical condition.

3. Fatal Car Accidents

From July 26 to Aug. 23, three fatal accidents took the lives of four Maricopa residents. In each case, the deceased was not believed to be wearing a seat belt. The issue became so vital to the community Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl held a press conference with representatives from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Ak-Chin Police Department, Gila River Police Department, Coolidge Police Department, Eloy Police Department, Apache Junction Police Department, Florence Police Department and the Department of Public Safety to show a united front against unsafe driving.

In one of the cases, however, Antoinette Sanchez was indicted for manslaughter in the death of Heidi Johnson.

2. Veteran Killed in Police Confrontation

veteran-shootingIn January, Iraq War veteran Johnathon Guillory was killed in a confrontation with police after reportedly threatening two officers, Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth, with a weapon in a residential area. The incident divided much of the community on whether the shooting was justified.

The incident was picked up by state and national news outlets as well, and the community heightened its interest in veteran services as Guillory was reported to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Maricopa, which has a population that is reportedly 10-percent veteran, Pinal County and state agencies campaigned to spread the word about programs for military veterans.

1. Double Murder Charged on Papago Road

Jose Valenzuela
Jose Valenzuela

The eyes of the nation again turned to Maricopa in late June when Thunderbird Farms residents Michael and Tina Careccia went missing. Days of searching for the couple resulted in numerous theories and garnered state and national news coverage. Their bodies were found on the property of family friend Jose Valenzuela.

Valenzuela was charged with two counts of first-degree murder by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. Valenzuela pled not guilty to the charges in August. His trial is pending.

A Maricopa woman was jailed Dec. 8 by the Maricopa Police Department on accusations of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, aggravated assault per domestic violence and threatening per domestic violence.

According to the police report, MPD responded to a call on West Belle Avenue in Maricopa Meadows around 6 p.m. When officers arrived, Felicia Nasta’s daughter stated her mother was having an “episode” and threatened to “smash her nose into her brain,” according to the report. Nasta allegedly struck her daughter in the back of her head with an open hand when the daughter tried to walk away.

The daughter was reported to be “visibly upset, crying and shaking” when officers arrived, and she was checked out by Maricopa Fire Department personnel for dizziness and a headache resulting from the reported blow to the back of her head.

A second witness to the scene confirmed hearing the threats but did not see a physical altercation.

According to the police report, “While attempting to take [Nasta] into custody, the defendant bit an arresting officer on the back of the hand, leaving a small laceration.”

Nasta was transported to Chandler Regional Medical Center. After she was placed in custody, she admitted to ingesting “multiple pills,” according to the police report. Nasta said later she had taken her anxiety medication.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety was contacted after “consistent statements among the defendant’s children” demonstrated feelings of being unsafe around their mother, and growing concerns that she was becoming increasingly aggressive and verbally abusive.

Four of the six children were in the home were picked by their father, according to Nasta. The other two minors remained with Nasta’s current husband, who is their father, while Nasta was in Pinal County jail for two days.

Nasta said the domestic situation and accusations have been part of a custody battle with her ex-husband. She denied striking her daughter and said she is due in family court on Thursday.

Officer Daniel Rausch (left, with Chief Steve Stahl) was key to the development of MPD's on-body camera program and was named Officer of the Year.

The Maricopa Police Department has named Officer Daniel Rauch as the department’s “Officer of the Year” for 2015.

Over the last year, Rauch has been an active patrol officer, was selected to represent MPD by working in a detail with the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Tempe Police Department, and was the test subject for both the MPD on-body camera program and license plate reader program.

“I feel so honored to be recognized as the Officer of the Year,” Rauch said. “I will continue to strive for excellence in all that I do. I am so proud to work for the Maricopa Police Department and to protect and serve the citizens of Maricopa.”

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl compared Rauch to the Energizer bunny. He is always open and available for new tasks, and whenever he is needed, he is there.

“One of the things that separated Daniel from the other officers was the fact that he is always willing to try new things, especially with technology,” Stahl said. “He always tests our new technology. He will push it to the limit, so if it’s ‘Daniel-proof’ it’s unbreakable.”

According to an MPD statement, Rauch exhibited a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty as both an officer and a member of the Community Action Team.

Rauch was also commended for his stellar communication and treatment of members of the community.

“He has this uncanny ability to talk to people,” Stahl said. “Whether he’s giving a citation or bringing someone to jail, people walk away enjoying their time with him.”

Three finalists for the commander's job at MPD, including Gerald Kaphing, were questioned by residents Dec. 2. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa residents were invited to meet the three finalists for the position of commander at Maricopa Police Department Dec. 2 at City Hall. The finalists were current MPD Lt. Mike Campbell, Gerald E. Kaphing Jr., formerly of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Robert Gervasi, now in Colorado and formerly with Mesa Police Department.

Alyssa Haley is a senior guard on the Maricopa High School girls' basketball team. Photo by William Lange

A two-car collision at the intersection of the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Santa Rosa Parkway left two players from the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team injured.

According to the police report, the accident occurred around 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 when a vehicle reportedly being driven by Alyssa Haley, a senior guard, pulled out of the Santa Rosa Parkway and collided with another vehicle traveling west on the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. The second vehicle did not have adequate time to stop and struck Haley’s vehicle on the driver’s side door.

The collision resulted in Haley and her passenger, believed to be a freshman player at MHS, suffering injuries to their legs and backs. The two girls were transported to Chandler Regional Hospital for injuries.

Both vehicles suffered significant damage in the collision and had to be towed away.

“Senior Alyssa Haley and a freshman … were both injured in the accident,” MHS girls’ basketball head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “[The freshman] has a broken tailbone and a fractured knee. Alyssa Haley didn’t have any breaks but does not have any feeling in her legs.”

At this time the extent of Haley’s injuries are unclear.

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The latest graduates of the Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy were recognized by the city council Tuesday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa City Council accepted a $450,000 grant from the Ak-Chin Indian Community for the construction of the police substation at the Copper Sky Regional Park during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The grant is meant to provide the Maricopa Police Department with extra funding to complete the substation. The initial budget for the substation did not allow the department to equip the substation with all of the equipment in the initial plan. The extra funding won’t negate that deficit, but it will help the department add some much needed equipment.

“It’s a generous donation,” MPD Chief Steve Stahl said. “As you’re all aware, the budget for the police substation was woefully short. As a result, we had to make some cutbacks. Now, some of the very important parts of a functional communications center are being taken care of that weren’t going to be taken care.”

Those items include a noise wall and three 911 lines (plus backups) into the substation.

The council also took time to honor the 14 new graduates of the city’s fall Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy.

“The Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy is specially designed to help transform residents into the role of actively engaged citizen, ultimately building a stronger Maricopa,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown said. “This was our 12th session in the city’s history. Over the last 11 years, we’ve had 191 graduates.”

The graduates were required to attend five of the six academy classes, as well as a City Council or Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting, and a city board commission or committee meeting.

The council also approved a two-year contract with Lincoln Financial for short-term disability insurance, a resolution declaring the “2015 Amendments to the Tax Code of the City of Maricopa” to be a public record and a submission ratification of a grant applications to the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Program through Maricopa Association of Governments. The grant applications could potentially bring in $2,710,921 for approximately 5 miles of roadway paving projects. The grants would still carry a local match cost totaling $644,263 for the projects.

The Maricopa City Council will reconvene on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

 

Police cadets gather for a photo during the awards banquet at Province. Photo by Donna Atkins

The nonprofit Maricopa Police Foundation hosted an annual awards banquet for the Maricopa Police Department Friday in the ballroom at Province.

MPF raises funds for equipment at programs for MPD.

The keynote speaker was MPD Commander Rick Clore, who has been in law enforcement almost 40 years.

Replacing bus will cost MUSD more than $100,000

The bus apparently stalled on the tracks and the driver had to abandon the vehicle before the collision. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With the school bus “in a million pieces,” it will take a while for Maricopa Police Department to sort out the cause of a train/bus collision Thursday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District bus was empty at the time of impact, the driver having fled the site. MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the condition of the small bus, with pieces scattered along the tracks, will make the investigation more difficult than usual.

MPD will go through maintenance records on the vehicle in the effort to determine why it reportedly stopped functioning after the driver stopped at the tracks, which is the practice of all bus drivers.

The distressed driver was evaluated at the scene by Maricopa Fire Department and will have to undergo other tests. MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said it is policy that any driver involved in an accident is required to submit to drug and alcohol testing.

“The driver is unable to drive until the outcome of the screening is sent to the District,” Beckett said. “The District is currently following those protocols with the driver from last evening’s accident.”

Besides MPD and MFD, Union Pacific Railroad had its police on scene, and the Ak-Chin Police Department also helped, Alvarado said.

Meanwhile, MUSD has a school bus to replace.

“We estimate that the cost for a new bus to around $120,000,” Beckett said. “There will be settlement through the insurance company based on the depreciated value of the bus, but we still anticipate paying around $100,000-$110,000 for a new bus.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Maricopa Police Department, Pinal County Attorney’s Office and Against Abuse Inc. are hosting a Break the Silence; End the Violence Walk at Pacana Park on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.

•    In Arizona, one or more children witness a domestic violence incident every 44 minutes.
•    One in four women and one in seven men has been a victim of severe physical domestic violence.
•    Domestic violence does not only occur in heterosexual couples; 43 percent of lesbian women and 26 percent of gay men have experienced sexual assault, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
•    In one day in Arizona in 2014, there were 171 unmet requests for domestic violence services, 154 of those for safe housing due to lack of resources.

During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, acknowledge the progress made in reducing these shameful crimes, embrace the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse and recognize that more work remains until every individual is able to live free from fear and “Break the Silence; End the Violence.”

For more information, contact MPD Community Programs Manager Mary Witkofski at 520-316-6844.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl hosted Coffee with the Chief Saturday at City Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

When schools call police to campus, the police become instruments of the school rather than the other way around.

“We operate within the confines of their rules,” Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said.

In the wake of an alleged bomb threat at Maricopa High School Sept. 23, school lockdowns were the theme of the monthly “Coffee with the Chief” gathering Saturday.

MPD had two school lockdowns that week. After the high school, Maricopa Elementary School shut down when a student reported seeing a suspicious person on campus.

Police response depends on the nature of the threat at a school. If it is a vague bomb threat, like that received by MHS, the school administration makes the decision whether to go into lockdown or evacuation mode.

In the MHS situation, the school did both. The administrators initially locked down the school and then later moved the students to the football field.

“As students we are not really told anything,” said Na-Talya James, a member of Maricopa’s Youth Council. “I need to know more. Like, what can I do? We ask the teachers and they can’t really tell us anything.”

Stahl said MPD could do more to prepare students.

“We teach the staff and rely on the staff to teach the students,” he said.

Whether it is a verified threat or a suspected threat, police come onto the campus at the request of the school and a lockdown is the school’s decision. “The school belongs to the school,” Stahl said.

School staff members are the best judge of what is unusual, he said.

“We don’t know what looks suspicious,” he said. “We don’t know the who, what or how. What we need to know is where to search.”

Police will walk the campus with a custodian or safety officer and use the school’s own safety rules to find the most vulnerable areas. “That way we are not wasting resources,” Stahl said.

Stahl said if a suspicious object like an unclaimed box or bag is found in the investigation of a bomb threat, everyone within at least 300 feet is evacuated.

Most lockdowns initiate within the school, but Stahl said there are occasionally situations in which MPD requests a campus to go into lockdown. In the past year that has occurred when law enforcement raided a drug house several blocks away from a school and when a potentially armed domestic-violence suspect was on the run through a neighborhood by a school.

Only two schools in the Maricopa Unified School District have surveillance cameras. “That is not sufficient,” Stahl said. He said it would be a big investigative help if all schools had cameras. He said it would help with campus safety and apprehension of suspects.

Parents crowd the front door of Maricopa High School to get an update on a bomb threat Wednesday. Photo by Adam Wolfe

An anonymous male caller threatening to “blow this thing up” was enough to lockdown and evacuate Maricopa High School Wednesday morning. The school was searched, but nothing suspicious was found.

“The Maricopa Police Department did an excellent job of searching the school and making sure there was no substance to the threat,” Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut said.

The call came into the reception desk at the high school around 9 a.m., according to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado. School Resource Officer Chris Evans notified MPD, which met with MUSD officials.

Following protocol, administrators locked down the campus and discussed with MPD the best place to take the students.

“When we arrived on scene we met with MUSD personnel from the district office and [high school] administration,” Alvarado said. “They determined that the safest course of action would be to evacuate the school. An area was located for us to evacuate, and we did a protective sweep to make sure that area was safe and secure for students to be moved.”

At around 11 a.m. students were taken to the football field. At noon, the lockdown ended, and the school resumed its normal schedule. However, hundreds of parents waited in the parking lot during the situation, with many electing to take their children home.

Several parents questioned why they were not notified about the situation until after 10 a.m. They were also concerned that “first lunch” was skipped and the evacuation continued into “second lunch.”

“Students began eating lunch at noon as soon as the police gave the all clear,” MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “If the lockdown had lasted much longer we would have begun evacuating all students to a relocation center.”

Parents mingle in front of MHS after a reported bomb threat. Photo by Adam Wolfe

Maricopa High School reported receiving a bomb threat this morning at 9 a.m. Information was sent out to parents at 10 a.m.

“There was a bomb threat,” Maricopa Police spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said. “The high school has been locked down. At this time, it is just the high school. Police are on the scene.”

Gates were locked, and no one was allowed in or out of the campus, though some parents gathered in the parking lot.

Around 11 a.m. students were ushered to the football field.

InMaricopa will report information as it becomes available.