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MPD

A man was struck and killed in a hit-and-run crash in Maricopa early Thursday morning.

A 20-year-old man, identified as Briar Mckay Hoover, was in a car with his father when an argument began. The man fell out of the vehicle near S.R. 347 and Smith Enke Road and was struck by another vehicle. Reports by police state the vehicle the male fell out of did remain on scene. All traffic on westbound Smith Enke has reopened to traffic. All road closures due to the accident have been removed.

The other vehicle said to be a “dark-colored” sedan fled the scene.

“We are still investigating what happened,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said.

Live traffic camera stream available here.

Ronald Bragonier (PCSO)

Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday in the child-molestation trial of a Maricopa man.

Ronald Bragonier, 56, is charged with four counts of child molestation and one count of sexual conduct with a minor under age 15. He was arrested in 2017 after the family of the victim reported the alleged “inappropriate relationship” of the child, who was 14 at the time, with Bragonier.

A jury of 12 with two alternates was seated Monday. The jury is comprised of nine women and five men. One of the jurors is a Maricopa resident.

Witnesses expected to testify include Maricopa Police detectives, the victim’s family members and the owners of a local cheerleading gym, where Bragonier, as a parent of one of the students, occasionally volunteered making repairs. He did not volunteer with the children.

Bragonier, too, may speak for himself.

“As of right now, he’s planning on testifying,” defense attorney Vicki Lopez told the court Monday.

Though, Lopez had challenged expert witness Wendy Dutton, a forensic interviewer who has testified frequently in similar cases, she was cleared to participate on behalf of the prosecution.

Judge Jason Holmberg is presiding at the trial. It is expected to run through Jan. 23, not including Friday or Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.

Tells officers strategy for targeting homes

Michael Avitia (PCSO)

Michael Avitia, 19, was arrested Tuesday on a recommended charge of second-degree burglary of a home on Alamendras Street in Acacia Crossings that was burglarized back in March.

Dec. 12, Maricopa Police Department received a scientific examination report which identified Avitia’s fingerprints on the north exterior patio window and window screen at the targeted home. When the house was burglarized, the victim identified 10 items being stolen with a combined value of $3,885.

An officer made contact with Avitia at a park Tuesday on Alamendras Street and Gatun Avenue, where police proceeded to interview him. Avitia told officers he was trying to “help some people” who he was unable to identify other than the fact they lived in Phoenix. Avitia allegedly told officers he had been watching multiple homes in Maricopa and identified two of them as good targets to burglarize.

He stated he learned the residents of the home’s schedule and knew when they would leave for work. He also noted that they had nice cars, which led him to assume they had expensive items in their home.

According to the police report, officers learned Avitia’s strategy to get into the home. He allegedly threw a rock to break the window after attempting to remove the screens where his fingerprints were found. Avitia stated he burglarized another home on Gavilan Drive by prying open the backyard sliding glass door with a crowbar.

Avitia allegedly told MPD he was working with a Phoenix “crew,” who paid him $100 to burglarize homes and turn over all stolen goods to them. Avitia stated he lived in Phoenix but relocated to Maricopa for a while and would tell the crew about the easy targets he found. When questioned about the identity of the crew, Avitia told police he did not know any names because they only go by “unknown nicknames.”

Michael Avitia was arrested and booked into Pinal County Jail.

 

Richard Wactler (PCSO)

Richard Wactler, 78, was arrested Jan. 2 on recommended charges of threatening/intimidating and disorderly conduct.

Around 1 p.m. Wactler entered the Check Into Cash title loan shop on North John Wayne Parkway near Fry’s Marketplace. The store clerk claimed Wactler told him he had a gun.

The clerk told police Wactler asked him if “he knew what a gun was.” The clerk asked if he was being threatened, to which Wactler responded it was real. Upon MPD’s arrival, after an emergency call was made, Wactler was questioned by officers.

Wactler claimed he actually told the clerk if someone tried to take his truck, he would shoot them. He also allegedly told the clerk he would break the window in the title loan building and shoot whoever stole money out of his bank account.

Wactler specified he would shoot them but not kill them, according to the report.

Richard Wactler was booked into Pinal County Jail.

Photo by Kyle Norby

One person was reported injured in a two-vehicle collision on the State Route 347 overpass Monday after 3 p.m.

The vehicles collided in the northbound lanes, and one car flipped on its side. Lanes were closed to traffic while first responders worked the scene.

Photo by Kyle Norby

According to Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, a 25-year-old man was transported to Chandler Regional Medical Center with “minor extremity injuries.”

Maricopa Police Department is investigating the incident.

Photo by Kyle Norby

Center helps public safety, nonprofits embrace domestic violence victims

After a year in operation, Maricopa Family Advocacy Center has proved its necessity in the community’s efforts to combat domestic assault.

It joined Against Abuse Inc. in assisting survivors of domestic violence. Those who live in Maricopa can seek shelter or medical attention close to home, which has not always been the case.

 

 

 

“Can you imagine getting sexually assaulted and then getting into a car with a stranger?” said Mary Witkofski, founder of the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center. “Victims sometimes decline participating in the criminal justice system due to the amount of travel, or decline in getting that examination.”

Witkofski is programs manager with the Maricopa Police Department. Before the center opened in January 2019, survivors had to turn to law enforcement or travel to the nearest center for medical care and investigative procedures with victim’s advocates – more than 45 minutes away to Eloy, San Tan or Mesa.

The long travel times for treatment is a contributor to unreported cases and women staying with their abusers, according to Dynia Abraham, domestic and sexual violence residential services director for Against Abuse Inc.

“One of the first questions after disclosure that they say is, ‘Where is it? How far? Is this something that takes a really long time?’ because people are in crisis in that moment in time,” Abraham said. “And when those answers were different,’ we would get a lot more, ‘No, thank you, I just want to go take a shower and lay down.’ We don’t see that much anymore. ‘It’ll take 15 minutes,’ and they’ll say, ‘OK.’”

The Turnaround

Dynia Abraham, domestic and sexual violence residential services director for Against Abuse Inc., said her most memorable case at the Maricopa shelter involved a mother and her children becoming self-sufficient while utilizing their resources.

“We had a mom with a few children come into our shelter program, she was married to someone who would not allow her to work or to interact with her children,” Abraham said. “So, her children were at home but she wasn’t allowed to talk to them. She was assaulted, so she came in, we provided domestic violence support group and education for her.

“She was able to get her first job while staying in shelter, her first bank account, driver’s license, she became very independent. She bonded and grew a really deep relationship with her children, she did end up getting employment. After a few months she was able to get an apartment.”

One survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her and her children from re-victimization, provided perspective.

“Because of what happened, our house was destroyed,” she said. “We were homeless, we couldn’t even move back in. Every window was shattered, one of the bullets had hit a water line so the bottom of the house was six inches in water, the ceilings in the bathroom and laundry room had fallen in; it was an absolute disaster.”

The survivor said the exit plan for her family would have looked much different had she had access to a center in town at the time.

“What would’ve been different and really helpful to me and my family is, because our situation involved a crime other than domestic violence, we were taken to the police station,” she said. “I think they would have taken us to the advocacy center and had the police come there, which would have been a lot easier on the kids and I.”

At the police station, the family was provided a change of clothes after the abuser had died on the scene.

“When you’re at the police station, it [is] an open room with fluorescent lights, and we’re not even wearing our (own) clothes, and we’ve been in a physical fight, and it’s uncomfortable,” she said. “Whereas at the advocacy center, we would’ve felt much more comforted. So, it would’ve made a big difference.”

The Maricopa Family Advocacy Center is a program within the Maricopa Police Department.

MPD Officer Donnie Burnias has firsthand experience responding to domestic violence calls throughout the community. He said he gets them every day.

“It’s probably one of the most common calls in the country,” Burnias said. “Everyone lives together, everyone has problems, and sometimes those problems need the police department to intervene.”

Maricopa Family Advocacy Center 2019
Survivors 96
Interviews with minors and vulnerable adults 50
Assaults: physical, sexual, child abuse, elder abuse, strangulation

Against Abuse Maricopa 2019
Adults 220
Children 189
Nights of housing 15,267

Abuse Reports
Daily calls to domestic-violence hotlines nationwide: 20,000
Arizona hotline calls in 2018: 39,000
Pinal County hotline calls in FY 2019: 706
The Arizona Department of Economic Security estimates 10 million people a year are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence reported 73 domestic-violence-related deaths in the state from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2019. That included an incident in Maricopa that resulted in the deaths of two adults and an unborn child.

“I expect the numbers to go up because the services are there and available,” Witkofski said. “More comfortable reporting, not having to travel, having the center here raises awareness.”

According to Witkofski, law enforcement can respond to a call on domestic violence and then bring the victims to the center, or the victim can call crisis lines and request a victim’s advocate to escort them.

“All the patrol officers work very closely with Mary and the FAC (Family Advocacy Center),” Burnias said. “Anytime the Victim’s Assistance Program or DVRT (Domestic Violence Response Team) needs to go to a residence, we go with them.”

Burnias said the role of local police is de-escalating the situation and assisting the survivor with any criminal law questions.

Many survivors have gone through the advocacy center and have been turned over to Against Abuse for emergency housing after initial investigations.

Against Abuse is a nonprofit organization offering resources for survivors of violence. Against Abuse offers emergency resources like the advocacy center, but also long-term resources to guide survivors back into society.

In fiscal 2017, the Arizona Department of Economic Security recognized Against Abuse in a Programs Fund Report for providing the fourth-highest number of shelter overnight stays for men, women and children.

“It’s a really important resource to have,” the survivor said. “Women and children need a place to go, and there are sometimes men also. But we really, really need it here. Sometimes these women come with the clothes on their back if they’re even lucky to have that.”

Advocates from Against Abuse provide calls to places of employment and landlords, legal advocacy, job interview accompaniment and supervised visitation for children, among several other services.

“Our goal is to provide services, support and education to all who experience the effects of family dysfunction or violence,” said Torri Anderson, an Against Abuse board member.

Anderson has worked on the board 15 years, after identifying the need of domestic violence services in Pinal County with various other members. She said the community has become more empathetic and aware of domestic violence survivors compared to other communities around Arizona.

“Domestic violence is a very serious thing,” Burnias said. “It impacts the whole family. It can get to the point where people’s lives are being lost due to domestic violence. We have to be sympathetic to this family and talk to them and kind of figure out how can we assist them, so that both parties are safe from each other, and give them information about the next step.”


This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa. Joycelyn Cabrera of Maricopa is a student at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at ASU.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl. Photo by Kyle Norby

After seven years on the job as Maricopa top cop, Chief Steve Stahl talked with InMaricopa about the challenges of policing a growing community, trends he finds the most disturbing, the use of on-body cameras, fiscal responsibility and what he considers the department’s biggest failure last year (it may not be what you think.)

How is Maricopa Police Department adapting to the growth of the city?
We have people who come with preconceived notions. They come with a set of expectations that they’re used to in their prior jurisdictions. Those are challenges sometimes to us to educated them on, “That doesn’t apply here in Arizona,” or “That doesn’t apply in Maricopa.” The biggest challenge regarding growth is the set of expectations that we are, one, trying to address, trying to meet with these citizens, but also trying to educate everyone on what is a realistic goal for us to accomplish together.

How many officers do you have?
We have about 1.3 officers per thousand. Seventy officers, 53,000 people.

What was the most frequent crime in 2019?
The most frequent crime is still property crime, these series of property crimes – thefts, shoplifts, vehicle burglaries, things like that, commercial burglaries, going onto people’s property, trespass, things like that. It’s still the No. 1 thing here in the city of Maricopa. We still have a long way to go to educate the people on how to properly secure their properties, their vehicle – lock the door, raise the windows, don’t leave anything in your vehicle you want to be there the next morning. Turn coach lights on if you’re going to park your car in your driveway. Those types of things that help us. Policing a safe community can’t be done just by having police officers do everything. It has to be the community working together in concert with the law enforcement officers out there, so we can accomplish the same goal together.

Do you find the nature of crime changing in any way?
I think the nature is just, again, new people coming to the city of Maricopa. We are actually seeing a whole lot more visitors exploring the city of Maricopa, visiting their friends, people from out of town, out of state, trying to determine if they want to live here in Maricopa and/or hide here in the city of Maricopa because they are coming with a history or background that they’re running from in their other jurisdiction. So, they may or may not be used to being identified right away by our law enforcement officers, and our motto still is, get out of the car, introduce yourself to people, good people and criminally oriented people. We want to introduce our officers to all those people and make sure that our community stays safe.

On that vein, your police officers have to deal with a wide array of people every day. How would you describe the diversity within your ranks?
We are very fortunate with diversity amongst our ranks. It’s going to take years to get the female population in law enforcement where it needs to be, but we are well ahead of other jurisdictions when it comes to female population. We have approximately 13% female population amongst our ranks in a notoriously male-dominated occupation. We understand that, we recognize that. They are great officers, regardless of male or female persuasion. They do a great job. Each and every person, regardless of what their gender is, brings a certain, unique talent to this profession that each and every one of them should be proud of. We’re doing very well in the African American population. The Latinos within our police force are doing really well, staying right with the population demographics within our city. Also, we have two Native American officers, and that, again, fall right in line with the demographics in our city.

For the past year, what has been the crime that has concerned you the most?
Along with what we talked about before, which is the property crimes and people failing to secure some of their property, the thing that concerns me the most is the juvenile – and I won’t refer to it as criminal activity, but I’ll refer to it as dangerous behavior that could easily turn into criminal activity. They – and you could talk to some of our partners, Be Awesome Coalition and those types of entities – they recognize that young people are getting alcohol and/or drugs from their own home, with or without parents’ permission. I do not believe that we’ve done a sufficient job in educating parents and children about the dangers of vaping. It is deadly, it is serious and it still such a new thing that people haven’t had time listen to or research the scientific studies. And all the scientific studies say it is a dangerous thing. So those are some of the dangers. I worry about our youth because it leads to other activities with our youth. Vaping won’t give them the sufficient high, so they have to go to a different drug, which may be marijuana. Today’s marijuana is nowhere even close to the marijuana concentrations that were out there when I was growing up. It is much stronger, it is much more dangerous. I just read it in a post over the weekend where someone was talking about, “Why do you care that a young person or a person is using marijuana. It makes them mellower.” We now know – you can talk to our officers – marijuana usage does not make a subject mellower. In fact, the concentration levels make them more paranoid and that means they’re paranoid of even people that they know and they love much less when they have to talk to a law enforcement officer.

Let’s talk about the body-cam program. You were kind of pioneers in that as far as local law enforcement. How many cameras are in use now daily?
Every one of our officers is equipped with an on-body camera.

How is it affecting police work?
I think it’s affecting it greatly to the positive. In fact, if you polled our police officers, if you went out and rode with them on the street, you won’t see them go out on the street without their on-body camera. They want to have that protection. It serves a couple different purposes. They can use it as a tool to de-escalate an angry or upset person. They can remind that person that they’re recording this incident, and that usually calms the situation down. Our officers use it for report writing so they are able to remember certain details they might forget, so our report-writing is better. And we’ve heard that both from our city prosecutors and from our county attorney. Finally, I think it’s a great training tool. Our officers can watch themselves and our training unit can watch the video and formulate some training scenarios from that video so we can learn and be better at what we do.

What is the cost?
The cameras are right around $1,000 per camera. The most costly part of cameras is the storage for Evidence.com. For our communication with the county attorneys and the prosecutors, it’s a necessary thing for them to be able to look at that on-body camera footage and be able to determine whether they want to proceed with the case or whether they would like to plead that case out or dismiss the case.

So, you think it’s worth the cost?
It definitely is. It’s the future. It’s definitely the future of law enforcement. If you look at the world, it is a digital world that is communicating digitally right now. If you want factual information, then you want it to be as factual as possible, and that camera provides that.

What is the department policy on initiating the use of the camera? Is it when they get out of the car? Is it when they talk to someone? Or is it left to the discretion of the officer?
It’s a great question, and it is left up to the discretion of the officer. Many of the officers have taken the philosophy of as soon as they receive the call for service, they will turn their on-body camera on. There are a lot of people who will call us and say, “Hey, we saw one of your officers speeding. They didn’t have their lights and siren on.” If the officers turn the camera on, as they’re en route to the call, it documents their speed, it documents the radio traffic that is coming across the radio at that time. It either justifies or condemns, so to speak, the officer for not obeying the traffic laws or justifies their having a little expedited response to that call.

Are there any new programs or projects MPD will initiate in 2020?
We’re always exploring new things. One of the things that we’re really excited about right now is that we’re changing our computer-aided dispatch. We’ve used a company since I’ve come here, and the company, while it does some good things, it is not as user-friendly, it is not as customer-service-friendly, and it’s not preparing for the future. It is not adapting to the world of law enforcement as quickly as we would like it to happen. So, we’ve been working with a company who will remain unnamed for a while longer until after the first of the year. We’re excited about that partnership. They’ve actually sat with our dispatchers. They’ve sat with our officers, and they’ve made the product from sitting down with all of our people. It is really designed for law enforcement by law enforcement.

Following that, the same company is exploring the world of record-management system, our police reports, our citations, things like that. That same company, hopefully in years to come when I’m retired, that same company will be able to take what’s on that on-body camera footage and translate it into a police report without the officer having to write the police report or type the police report. It’ll decipher all of that language and it will put it right in the police report for the officers to view, correct and things like that before it’s actually submitted. We’re evolving into what I hope is a more efficient police department, and I believe that is what is demanded by the taxpayers right now, a responsible use of their funding so when we ask for more officers, if we need more officers, it is absolutely justified because we have taken all the steps necessary to ensure that our officers are efficient. Once those steps are all taken, the only recourse is to add more resources, more officers.

What do you think were the department’s biggest successes of 2019?
I’m going to brag about our family advocacy center, first and foremost. They have done a phenomenal job. Mary Witkofski has done a phenomenal job there. They have given service to more than 40 criminal cases already in the short period time that they’ve been in existence. Now, that’s both a sad thing and positive thing, because you never want to say, “Oh, we really need this. We can’t do without it.” And yet at the same time, if you talk to those victims, most of them children or their parents, they will agree that service is absolutely necessary to start rebuilding that child, to start making them whole again from the horrific crime that they have either witnessed or suffered through or anything like that. Mary has done a great job. All of our community partners have done a great job with it.

We keep exploring new ways to deliver service. One of those ways is Maricopa Police Department has a DVIRT program, its Domestic Violence Incident Response team. By team I mean we have one victim advocate who reviews all the cases and then they will go out the next day to the victim’s home with an officer and they will ask if there are additional resources that they can give them. In the heat of the moment when it’s really emotional and they’re in the middle of that domestic-violence situation, decisions aren’t necessarily sound decisions by the victim. So, if they’ve had the night to think about it, the day to think about it, there may have been some resources that they have forgotten about that they really want to explore and ask about. So that Domestic Violence Incident Response team goes out and answers those questions for them, gives them the option of additional resources, makes them know that the police department cares about them, the safety of their future and what’s going to happen in the future so they do not become a repeat victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately, if you look nationwide, the repeat [offenders] of domestic violence progressively get more and more violent every time.

I would add another big win for 2019 is the men and women out there who do this each and every day. There are not enough accolades in the dictionary to be able to give to the men and women out there who do that job. They are understaffed. They are doing the very best job they can. They are responding the calls. They are stopping and talking to people. They are preventing, even though it sometimes it may not look like it, they are preventing traffic crashes on a regular basis just by being visible and/or doing traffic enforcement in certain areas of our city where most of our crashes happen. They are doing it each and every day. They are doing it with a purpose of keeping our community safe, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.

The other thing that we did last year was we re-accredited once again. We did that in 2018, but now accreditation is different. We have to every year to a digital load of all of our policies. And every year CALEA [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] selects 25% of those policies to make sure we have the proofs of compliance. So now when year four comes around it’s just a very smaller snippet of making sure we’re abiding by our policies, and then in year four they actually come and do an onsite. That will allow the accreditors, the assessors, to come out actually and ride along with our officers, see how things are done versus sitting in a conference room looking over proofs of compliance. They will actually get to physically see proof of compliance.

What was MPD’s biggest failure last year?
This is a hard one because you have to self-reflect. You look at things you think you should have known or if you had a crystal ball, what would you do. I still think one of the failures that we still need to address, all of us, not just the police department, is the seriousness of domestic violence. We have to get beyond, “This is a private matter and should only be addressed as a family.” We have to get ride of our ego and we have to get rid of our self-pride and we have to reach out for help. I don’t mean that I want us as a police department to criticize and/or be the state officials of domestic violence. What I mean by that is we now have a service available. We have a family advocacy center that you don’t have to report a crime to, but you can call for services and that system will set you up in the services so that you don’t have to be involved in the system. That’s what I’m hoping we can do a better job of. As a police department, as a community, we had one death, and that was a domestic violence situation. One is too many. It’s unacceptable. We still need to address that collectively.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Community members, if you have some things you would like to contribute, I’m all open. People know how to get ahold of me via email; they know how to get ahold of me on the phone. I’m an open book. Give me some ideas and we’ll explore them and see if we can’t continue to do a better job in that arena.

I would say one other thing, we still need to get children to understand the dangerous behaviors they’re doing out there. I spoke briefly about the use of vape and the use of marijuana and/or other drugs. There comes a point in time when the use of the drug is not enough, and teenagers, young people, are turning to suicide as a possible option for the pain that they’re going through. To me, that’s a failure. That’s a young person who has a bright future ahead of them. And I want them to understand that bright future is exactly what we want also. In that same vein, I believe our family advocacy center can help in that educational component as well. I’m hoping we can do that as a community.

What is the difference in what training tells you to do if officers are called, “Hey, we hear some screaming at this house,” and on the way there, they’re informed they’ve had previous calls from this same house, how does that change their response?
Every call is different. It’s really hard to pigeon-hole anything. What it does is, if you’ve had prior calls there, it puts the officers on a little bit more of an alert because they know the same statistics. They’ve been to the same trainings where we try to instill in them, the more frequent it happens the more violent it gets. So, it puts them on a little bit more heightened alert. It may cause them to explore other avenues rather than just walking to the door and knocking on the door and saying, “Hi, how are you? We’re here to stop a domestic violence situation.” It may cause them to gather up down the street, formulate a plan and then carry out the plan. If we know there’s weapons in the house, it’s going to change the dynamics as well. We do live in Arizona, so we can assume that every house has a weapon until otherwise proven.

This is something we touched on earlier. MPD and the fire department take up 50% of the city budget. How do you stay fiscally accountable?
That’s an interesting question. I believe, and I’ve said this before to our city council people, we are if you compare us to other police departments throughout the state, we are well under most of those police departments. If you look at Oro Valley PD, who prides themselves on being the second-safest city in the state of Arizona, they have 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents. They have 43,000 residents, and they have 108 police officers. I could do a lot with 108 police officers. But I also understand if I were to get greedy and ask for even more of the budget, which, if you look nationwide, police and fire do take up 50% to even more of city budgets, if I get greedy then that leaves potholes un-taken-care-of in the city, that leaves less room for our libraries for a our kids and grandkids to go, that leaves less money for parks and recreation where we do want our kids to go. So that’s that fine balance of let’s not get greedy and ask for the world; let’s make sure that we are being responsible. We have given back and we’ve stayed within budget. We’ve given back mostly through employee savings. But that’s because we’re always understaffed. It takes time to fill a position when someone leaves. During that time the position is unfilled, there’s savings, there’s employee savings. It takes about 18 months for us to catch up to that. For somebody to go through the background process, to be hired and then go through the academy and then go through field-training, it’s about an 18-month process. I think we’ve been very, very responsible with the budget. Anything we know we can’t get, we’re looking at grant-funding, we’re looking at other ways of doing things. The family advocacy center was put together and continues to operate without a penny of the city’s general fund. I made that promise that for five years, we would not use a penny from the general fund, and as of yet we have not.

What’s the department’s No. 1 need for 2020?
Safety. That could go in a myriad of different directions. I could use the standard caveat of I need more officers, I need more calls or I need more that. Our need is for accountability on everyone’s part. On our part, on citizens’ part, on businesses’ part. That’s going to lead to safety. If we’re accountable, it’s going to lead to a safer community. There’s never been a time in society when the slogan “See something, say something” means more than now. “See something, say something” applies to our kids. “See something, say something” applies to our schools. “See something, say something” applies to domestic violence. It applies to traffic, and it applies to possible terrorist activity. We try to pigeon-hole “See something, say something” to just terrorist activity, but it applies to everything in a safe community. I hope that we take that saying seriously. Use our police department ap. You can report anonymously. Stay involved with us. Come to Coffee with the Chief. We want to communicate with you and we want to help this community be safe.

Tyler Becking (PCSO)

A Maricopa man was arrested Saturday on recommended charges of burglary, three counts of disorderly conduct, unlawful imprisonment and threatening/intimidating.

Tyler Becking, 24, entered a residence on Alicia Court in Smith Farms around 1:40 a.m., according to the Maricopa Police Department report. He entered the home through an open window in a downstairs bedroom, where a woman was smoking a cigarette. MPD described the woman as Becking’s target. Once he was inside, the woman later told police, Becking blocked her access to the door and locked it to prevent her from fleeing.

Becking allegedly told her, “I’ll hurt you if you try to leave.”

In fear of her safety and well-being, the woman stated she stayed in the room with Becking for approximately two hours. In this time, Becking allegedly drank an entire bottle of alcohol.

The woman was able to convince Becking to let her use the bathroom next to the bedroom. She told police she locked herself in the bathroom and hid under the sink. Becking reportedly began banging on the bathroom door, causing the woman to scream, alerting roommates upstairs. They proceeded to call 911.

When officers arrived on the scene, Becking was heavily intoxicated in the woman’s bedroom, according to the report. Becking was placed under arrest and booked into Pinal County Jail.

Sasha Verma (PCSO)

The apparent killing of a dog led Maricopa Police to a Desert Cedars home, where they allegedly uncovered child porn.

Sasha Verma, 50, had a bail hearing Friday in Superior Court and remains behind bars on a $400,000 bond, as records describe him as a flight risk. He was arrested Dec. 19 after an incident in which nearby residents came home to find a pool of blood in their backyard but not their young dog.

Determining a projectile had struck and likely killed the dog, police tracked its trajectory to a home on Yucca Lane.

Verma was contacted at the home, where police served two warrants. They allegedly found more than 100 weapons and ammunition. Police also allege Verma had multiple passports and other international documents and was carrying $70,000.

In a folder in the home, investigators allegedly found pornographic photographs of underage children. They also reported finding 13 pornographic magazines involving children.

Police have not said if the dog was ever found on the property, saying they are not able to release details on an ongoing investigation.

A grand jury indicted Verma on 11 counts of exploitation of a minor. He is also charged with animal cruelty.

According to county records, Sasha S.M. Verma of California and Dr. Sheo P. Verma of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, listed as unmarried men, purchased the home at 44385 W. Yucca Lane in 2010. Sasha Verma then acquired the home from Sheo Verma in 2017 on a quit claim deed.

Jordan Guajardo-Mickell (PCSO)

A Maricopa man, accused of stealing a package from in front of a Glennwilde home, was followed by a witness and arrested by police.

Maricopa Police were called at 2:13 p.m. Monday about the possible theft of the package from the entryway of a home on Chimayo Drive. A witness described the suspect as a black male wearing a black hoodie and a backpack.

The witness followed the suspect, according to the police report, and gave MPD updates on his movements until police stopped the suspect on Toya Street. He was identified as Jordan Guajardo-Mickell, 21, of Maricopa.

Police reported he matched the description given by the witness. According to the probable-cause report, police saw two boxes of new Vans shoes, size 9.5, in the open backpack worn by Guajardo-Mickell.

He allegedly claimed he found the boxes of shoes. After telling him they had a witness, police alleged he admitted to taking the shoes.

After the owner of the shoes told police they wanted to press charges, MPD formally arrested Guajardo-Mickell the next day, Christmas Eve, on one count of theft and booked at Pinal County Adult Detention.

 

David Leach (PCSO)

A Maricopa man was arrested Sunday after his ex-wife told police he ran into her car multiple times with his vehicle.

David Leach, 39, was taken into custody on recommended charges of aggravated assault, criminal damage and endangerment. His former wife called police while driving around a Rancho El Dorado neighborhood with her children in the car while he followed her, according to the police report.

Maricopa Police contacted her on Bishop Drive. She told officers she had met Leach in the parking lot of Ace Hardware to pick up their two children. While the children waited in his vehicle, she talked with David in hers. When the conversation became heated, Leach left her vehicle to get into his and the children got into hers.

She said she drove away but soon noticed Leach had left his phone in her car. When she reached the intersection of Rancho El Dorado Parkway and Santa Rosa Drive, she claimed, Leach ran into the back of her vehicle. He then allegedly drove around her and parked in front of her.

When she drove off, he hit the passenger side of her vehicle, she reported. She drove home and parked in the driveway while she called police. According to the allegations, Leach then rammed the back of her vehicle. She stated when she backed out to leave again, he ran into the driver’s side of her vehicle.

She drove around the area while calling police for help.

Responding officers noted damage to both vehicles in the probable-cause report, stating the “damage around the entire vehicle” was consistent with the woman’s story. One of the children also described what happened, a statement that matched the mother’s, according to the report.

Leach was taken to the police station for more questioning. Police said his claims were “the exact opposite” of the ex-wife’s. He allegedly claimed she ran into him.

Leach was booked into Pinal Count Adult Detention early Monday morning.

Denise Lewis (PCSO)

Police arrested Denise Lewis, 37, on Dec. 16 for an outstanding shoplifting warrant. However, MPD were contacting Lewis for another reason entirely.

Around noon, a Maricopa detective was stopped by a citizen who claimed they witnessed someone throw a dog out of their vehicle near John Wayne Parkway and Farrell Road. The detective notified MPD dispatch and officers subsequently conducted a traffic stop on a black SUV. 

When police approached the vehicle, they were met by two occupants, Lewis and another woman who identified themselves to police. The women were questioned about the dog allegedly being thrown out of their vehicle. Both women denied the allegations.

Police dispatch notified the officers of Lewis’ outstanding shoplifting warrant from the City of Maricopa. Lewis was placed under arrest and booked into Pinal County Jail.

At this time, no additional information is available about an animal allegedly being ejected from a vehicle.

 

Juan Ibarra (PCSO)

Juan Ibarra, 24, was arrested Dec. 8 on suspected charges of domestic violence assault and three counts of disorderly conduct.

MPD responded to a call at a home on West Cheyenne Court in Glennwilde from a woman who told officers her brother Juan Ibarra was disturbing the family and threatening to assault them.

When police arrived, Ibarra was located in the upstairs bathroom of the home. According to the officer’s report, Ibarra was verbally aggressive with officers, allegedly telling them he would fight them and told them to shoot him, not letting them into the bathroom.

After multiple attempts to end the interaction peacefully, police forced the door open, with Ibarra telling them to “come get him.” According to the report police forcefully detained Ibarra on the floor of the hallway and brought him downstairs for further questioning.

Down the street, police met with Ibarra’s sister, who made the emergency call. She told the officers the whole incident began when she picked up Ibarra and their older brother from a bar in Chandler. She said her two children were in the vehicle as well. When they drove back to Maricopa, they stopped at the Circle K near their home on Porter Road.

After Ibarra used the restroom at the gas station, he came back out and allegedly hit the car next to them with the passenger door when he opened it. The woman said Ibarra began yelling at the occupants of the car he hit and insisted they parked too close. She told her Ibarra to calm down and stop yelling, to which he responded he would “knock her teeth out.”

The woman told Ibarra he could walk home and left him at Circle K.

Once the woman, her children and her older brother got to the house, Ibarra was already approaching. They later reported he was still yelling and threatening to assault her. The older brother stood between her and Ibarra and then took him to the ground by wrapped himself around him from the back.

The woman stated Ibarra began swinging and punching the older brother in an attempt to get free, hitting him a few times in the head. After this altercation, the woman drove her two kids to another home to call MPD.

Ibarra was transported to Pinal County Jail.

Richard Kruse (PCSO)

Richard Kruse, 75, was arrested Nov. 27 at a residence on North Bishop Drive on suspected charges of aggravated assault strangulation.

Kruse’s daughter reported she and her father got into an argument in their home on North Bishop Drive in the late afternoon of Nov. 26. According to reports from police, the argument began when Kruse confronted his daughter for paying rent for an ex-boyfriend who lived out of state. The amount was allegedly $400.

The woman stated that the interaction became so bad that she turned on the audio recording function on her phone and placed it on a bathroom counter to document the argument. At some point during the incident, Kruse allegedly took the woman’s phone and demanded to talk with the ex-boyfriend about the money he was receiving from her.

The woman told Kruse he didn’t have her permission to take her phone and slapped him in the face when he refused to give it back. She told police Kruse wrapped his arm around the back of her neck, placing her in a “headlock.”

Kruse allegedly held his daughter in the headlock so tight she eventually lost consciousness.

The woman regained consciousness and bit Kruse on his side while trying to free herself. Kruse released her, and the woman got her phone back from him, but claimed Kruse grabbed her again, this time choking her with both of his hands around her throat.

The woman stayed conscious and Kruse fled prior to MPD’s arrival on the scene. He later returned and gave officers a statement.

The woman gave police the audio recording from her phone, which including Kruse saying, “you’re going to end up dead.” Police were also able to hear the woman struggling to breathe and talk in the recording. The woman was examined and referred to an ER for further evaluation.

Police contacted Kruse the following day, and he allegedly admitted to placing his daughter in a headlock but claimed it was only to restrain her after she hit him. He claimed he knew that the situation went too far and took responsibility for the altercation. Kruse, however, denied putting his hands on her neck and choking her the second time.

Richard Kruse was booked into Pinal County Jail.

Farrand Thompson (PCSO)

Update: Upon being released from jail on Dec. 5, Farrand Thompson allegedly attempted to contact his wife via text messages and FaceTime. This was a violation of his release conditions.

Thompson’s wife reported the attempted contact to MPD, who verified the text was from Thompson. Police took Thompson into custody on Dec. 6. While questioning him, officers made Thompson aware of his release violation. Thompson allegedly admitted to the text message and FaceTime call but told officers it was an accident. He claimed he inadvertently  FaceTimed her while reading a text she sent the night after he was arrested. He also claimed the text to her regarding getting some of his things from the home was meant for a friend.


Farrand Thompson, 35, was arrested Nov. 30 on multiple domestic violence charges including strangulation, assault, disorderly conduct and preventing the use of a telephone in an emergency.

Maricopa Police responded to a home on West Bonneau Street in Smith Farms in reference to an assault. Officers met with a woman who was, “visibly distraught and crying.” She had come out of a neighboring house and could be seen limping, according to the report.

She stated her husband Farrand Thompson tried to kill her.

Police observed multiple marks all over the woman. She had several scratches two to three inches in length on her forearm and up to five more scratches on her bicep. Officers reported the woman’s shirt was torn, with marks on her hip allegedly from being dragged and marks from choking around her neck.

She stated she believed Thompson was going to kill her by choking her. She told MPD she was choked in the kitchen of her home, blacked out and woke up in the hallway.

Police found Thompson in the house. He claimed he only tried to push her out of the home and nothing else.

The woman was transported to be treated for her injuries and Farrand Thompson was placed under arrest and booked in Pinal County Jail.

Jesse Coria (PCSO)

Jesse Coria, 21, was identified as the “unwanted subject” attempting to make entry into multiple Rancho El Dorado homes Tuesday.

MPD arrived on the 21500 block of North Backus Drive, resulting in multiple calls from residents. One resident allegedly displayed a weapon when Coria refused to leave. Officers reported giving several commands to Coria to turn back and come to police, but he allegedly failed to obey.

While walking up the driveway to another home, Maricopa Police “went hands-on” after multiple orders to get down on the ground, Coria continued to not listen to the officers. MPD deployed a taser into Coria’s left lower back, and officers were then able to bring him into custody.

After being evaluated by Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, Jesse Coria was processed and booked into Pinal County Jail on three charges of disorderly conduct.

Crishna Gonzalez (PCSO)

Chrishna Gonzalez, 20, was arrested Nov. 24 on expected charges of disorderly conduct.

Maricopa police responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado around noon. Neighbors of a residence on Liles Lane placed the call after hearing a “verbal altercation.” Gonzalez lived at the home in question with her boyfriend and his mother.

An officer arrived near the scene but stayed in the police vehicle nearby, waiting for additional units. They reported seeing someone at the home throwing objects onto the front lawn and porch area. The officer continued watching when two subjects were seen getting physical. They were later determined to be Gonzalez and her boyfriend’s mother.

Police approached the home and the two women went back inside. Officers announced their presence and entered the house. They spoke with the boyfriend’s mother, who stated that Gonzalez had hit her son.

Officers found the boyfriend lying on the stairs, “clutching his side.”

Police located Gonzalez in her bedroom and told her they needed some questions answered. While gathering information from her, police reported Gonzalez made a phone call to her grandmother and began raising her voice at her over the phone.

When police told Gonzalez to end her call, she allegedly stood up and yelled at officers and refused to sit down. She was handcuffed by officers and began screaming uncontrollably, they reported.

Gonzalez’s boyfriend told police she pushed him while he was on the staircase, causing him to fall. He said he suffered from a spinal disorder. Officers found no reportable injuries on the man, resulting in no assault charges because of the conflicting statements.

After a follow-up with Maricopa Police Department, long-form charges were submitted against Crishna Gonzalez.

Richard Cervantez, 22, was arrested Sunday on an expected charge of auto theft that occurred on Nov. 18 in Santa Rosa Springs.

A Maricopa woman called Maricopa Police Department Nov. 18 to report her vehicle being stolen. She said it was taken without her permission by Cervantez.

The woman stated that she arrived at a residence on North Cielo Lane to pick up Cervantez “as a favor.” She said she left her vehicle running when she went to the front door of the residence.

While speaking to another person in the household, she saw Cervantez getting into her vehicle. She yelled to Cervantez to not take her vehicle, and he allegedly drove off anyway.

Officers took the woman’s information and statement, logging the vehicle as stolen. The woman’s phone was still in the car, allowing police to track the vehicle through the phone’s GPS.

Cervantez and the vehicle ended up approximately an hour and a half away in Marana. Police recovered the vehicle as well as Cervantez, who was immediately placed into custody for an active warrant. Officers located the vehicle with the assistance of a passenger that was with Cervantez, who showed officers where they bailed from the vehicle in an attempt to hide from authorities. This passenger is not identified in the police report.

 

Autumn Terrio and Henry DeCook. (PCSO)

Autumn Terrio, 26, and Henry DeCook, 29, were arrested around 3 a.m. Friday on suspected charges of third-degree burglary, possession of marijuana, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Maricopa Police Department received reports of a suspected burglary in the early hours of Friday, with reports stating an unidentified male in a red pickup truck was attempting to open unoccupied car doors in the location on North Bishop Drive in Rancho El Dorado.

Officers were able to find the red pickup truck near Bishop Drive and West Hall Drive. Police identified the driver of the truck as Autumn Terrio. A man in the passenger seat matched the description given by reporting parties. He identified himself as James Dixon but was later discovered to be Henry Decook.

Terrio allegedly told officers that Decook instructed her to pull up at two or three houses so he could check the yards and didn’t see him return with stolen items from the yard. She also claimed she did not want to do it in fear of getting in trouble, but they argued, and she finally agreed to drive.

When searching the vehicle, police found cannabis oil along with marijuana. Terrio allegedly claimed she had a medical card for marijuana, but she did not have it, making her unable to show officers.

Additionally, officers reportedly uncovered “usable quantities” of methamphetamine in the truck’s glove compartment. Terrio denied owning or even knowing about the meth.

Terrio and Decook were arrested and booked in Pinal County Jail.

James Wahlgren was arrested  for suspected charges of possession of a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia.

Police reported making contact with Wahlgren around Nov. 13 noon near the roundabout in Cobblestone Farms on Struebing Drive. The police report does not state the reason for the traffic stop.

Wahlgren consented to the officer’s request to search his vehicle. Upon searching, police located one syringe full of a reported black substance and 30 used syringes. When testing the substance in the full syringe, it came back positive for methamphetamine, according to MPD.

When questions by police, Wahlgren allegedly admitted to using and that the meth was his. James Wahlgren was placed under arrest, with the report not stating specifically stating where he was booked and processed.

Dawn Lash (PCSO)

A woman was arrested Nov. 6 on suspicion of theft and fictitious registration.

Dawn Lash, 43, was pulled over by Maricopa police at approximately 6 p.m. on John Wayne Parkway and Desert Cedars Drive for expired vehicle registration. Lash was found to have a warrant for her arrest from the Florence city court for a June traffic violation.

Police observed an additional sticker covering the registration year on the vehicle’s license plate. The sticker had the number “20” printed on it. When questioned by police, Lash allegedly stated she knew her tags were expired, so she made her way to a local store, bought a pack of white stickers and covered the registration year, ‘19, with the stickers for ‘20.

Officers proceeded to search the vehicle, as well as Lash’s purse. An officer allegedly found four blank checks with a man’s name written on them in the purse. After locating a phone number for the man named on the checks, Maricopa police asked if he had let Lash use the checks or if he was aware that she was in possession of them. The man stated he and his wife pay Lash to clean their home and she had just left for the day.

He told officers he never gave Lash permission to take or use his checks.

Lash allegedly told police she remembered taking the checks and putting them in her purse when she was cleaning the home. She went on to say that she had no intention of taking them for the home and forgot to give them back before she left.

The homeowners advised MPD that they wanted to press charges and aid in prosecution.

Police placed Lash under arrest on charges of theft and fictitious registration and was booked in Pinal County Jail.

Derrick Morris (PCSO)

On Oct. 29, Maricopa Police responded to a call from a woman in The Villages who stated she could hear someone banging on her door, wanting to come in.

The man banging on the door, later identified as Derrick Morris, 39, allegedly said, “You can hide but I am going to find you and kill you.”

An officer arrived on the scene for a welfare check and was able to hear Morris’s voice and the banging on the backyard door. The woman who called police opened the 2nd story window to speak to the officer. The reason for not wanting Morris to know about the police’s presence was redacted from the report.

The woman met police at the door and told them Morris had a doctor’s appointment and came over to her residence afterward. She stated that they argue often. Their relationship was not stated in the report.

According to the report, Morris had attempted to break a window in the backyard by throwing a propane tank at it, twice. The window did not shatter, but police observed blue scuff marks on the window, consistent with the propane tank’s color.

The police reported that the woman did not actually hear Morris threaten to kill her, but she afraid of what would happen if he had gotten inside the home.

Derrick Morris was placed under arrest on suspicion of disorderly conduct, threatening and criminal damage. He was booked into Pinal County Jail.

Alphonso Ervin (PCSO)

Maricopa police arrested Alphonso Ervin, 46, Sunday afternoon on suspicion of domestic violence assault in Alterra.

Officers were dispatched to a residence on West Sage brush Drive after receiving a call from Ervin’s wife stating he had punched her in the face. Upon arriving, police made contact with Ervin first.

He told police he and his wife were in a verbal argument prior to their arrival regarding his brother “messing up” the blinds on their back patio door, according to the report. He went on to explain that his brother had lived with them for approximately four years, and his wife has multiple issues with him.

Ervin claimed that while they were arguing, he threw a plastic cup of water toward his wife but did not actually hit her with either the water or cup. He told police his wife scratched her own face from her forehead to her chin and claimed he had never touched her or hit her.

Officers identified a scratch under the woman’s eye and a bump with fresh blood on her eyebrow.

The woman’s recollection involved Ervin throwing a whole garlic clove at her, hitting her in the eye and causing the eyebrow injury. Ervin allegedly also threw a jar of pimentos at her, striking her thigh.

When attempting to leave the room, she said, she was slapped in the face by Ervin. Officers were able to observe a garlic clove on the ground as well as the shattered jar of pimentos.

Police determined the injuries to the woman were not consistent with Ervin’s statement. He was placed under arrest for domestic assault and booked in Pinal County Jail.

 

Michael Cowan (PCSO)

Michael Cowan, 49, was arrested Sunday on multiple charges, including theft of means of transportation and possession of a stolen firearm.

Maricopa Police conducted a traffic stop late Sunday at the corner of West Barcelona and North Terra Drive in Glennwilde when reports came in about a stolen trailer. The report stated Cowan was caught on surveillance cameras approaching the box trailer, attaching it to his vehicle and driving off.

After performing the traffic stop and identifying Cowan, officers placed him under arrest and questioned him about the box trailer reported stolen in his possession. He allegedly claimed that he was ordered to remove the trailer by an employer. MPD later determined that to be a lie.

While searching Cowan’s vehicle, officers discovered a 9mm handgun that was reported stolen in Phoenix. When asked about the weapon, Cowan stated it belonged to his wife. Police also reported Cowan stated he “knew the trailer was a set-up” and he “messed up.”

Police took Cowan to Maricopa Police Station for further questioning.

At the station, Cowan stated he had been observing the trailer for approximately two weeks and was under the impression the owner did not want it because of a parking sticker on the back.

Cowan was reported to have admitted he stole the trailer and had planned to keep it and put a salvage title on it. He allegedly also admitted to being a convicted felon of 10 years. When asked about the handgun in the vehicle, he said he bought it for his wife three years ago to protect herself. Cowan had never had his rights restored to have a firearm in his possession, according to MPD.

Michael Cowan refused to answer any further questions and was booked in Pinal County Jail. Other charges include possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor. Bond was set at $2,500.

Photo by Kyle Norby

At least one person was injured in a collision this morning at the intersection of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and White and Parker Road.

Maricopa Police spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said it appeared a car ran into the back of a box truck. A piece of the two-door Hyundai Accent was still attached to the truck when first responders arrived.

Maricopa Fire/Medical Department personnel extracted a person from the car.

The road was closed in all direction as the patient was treated and police investigated.

Police submitted a felony report against a Maricopa man Oct. 23 on suspected charges of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The incident came to light in late January when the photo website group SmugMug-Flickr submitted a child exploitation tip to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Internet Crimes Against Children. The tip stated that a user named Eric Tetmeyer had uploaded an image of child pornography to their site.

Tetmeyer’s IP address was obtained and confirmed to belong to him at his residence on West Thornberry Lane in Maricopa. SmugMug-Flickr filed a second report to ICAC and NCMEC of the same image being uploaded by a different user named “Samantha Knotts.” The user, however, had the same IP address as Tetmeyer.

MPD executed search warrants for Tetmeyer’s residence and his place of work in Phoenix.

Officer’s interviewed Tetmeyer, 38, who allegedly admitted to having a Flickr account as well as having a personal IP address that only he had access to in his home.

When questioned about the images, he allegedly stated he frequently viewed pornography but denied ever viewing child pornography. Tetmeyer stated he was unemployed and at his residence during the time the image was uploaded. He claimed that he never knew anyone named Samanta Knotts and didn’t have any company over that day.

MPD submitted felony long-form charges for review against Tetmeyer for one count of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Maricopa Police arrested Daja Cooper, 19, on allegations of credit card theft, fraudulent use and receipt of item with a stolen credit card.

Back in September, a woman had contacted MPD to report the theft of her credit card as well as the fraudulent use of the credit card. The woman stated she last had the card in her possession at Wendy’s on John Wayne Parkway.

A similar report was taken around the same time period, with another card being stolen and used at Circle K and QuikTrip. Surveillance footage from both locations identified the suspect using the stolen credit cards as a woman named “Daja” based off a name tag she wore with her Wendy’s employee uniform.

Police proceeded to contact Wendy’s management and were able to identify the only employee named Daja was in fact, Daja Cooper. Officers additionally confirmed that Cooper was working at the time the credit cards involved in fraudulent charges were stolen.

Officers arrived at Cooper’s home with a search warrant and interviewed her about the stolen credit cards. Cooper allegedly admitted to stealing four separate credit cards and could only remember the name of the original victim who called MPD.

Cooper told police that she had attempted to shop online at DHSGATE.com for women’s shoes totaling $494.23. The purchase was declined, however, which allowed police to confirm it had come from the original stolen credit card report.

In another report received by MPD, another alleged victim saw a similar charge from DHSGATE.com attempting to purchase Dolce & Gabanna brand shoes. During the interview, Cooper confirmed the brand of shoe as well as the color and seller, stating the shoes were never delivered but the information was consistent with what was provided by the victim’s credit card company.

The credit card company also determined the ZIP code used was the same as Cooper’s, who used a fake last name for the order. Cooper also allegedly admitted to purchasing a digital camera with one of the credit cards and had it in her possession.

Police recovered the camera and placed Daja Cooper under arrest and booked her into Pinal County Jail. Pinal County Attorney’s office charged her twice in separate cases Oct. 24 with theft of a credit card.

First Responders Day is Oct. 28. Firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and EMTs are the first line of response in a community emergency and individual crises. Their uniforms represent the city, but their work is often very personal. Though they help people in ways few others can, in many instances, they are meeting people on one of the worst days of their lives, witnessing horrific scenes and even putting themselves in precarious situations.

Brad Pitassi. Photo by Kyle Norby

Some told us why they do what they do:

Deputy Fire Chief Brad Pitassi
“I just fell in love with the whole service element of the job. It’s been the best, most rewarding career I’ve ever had.”

MPD Communications Manager Jennifer Hagen
“It’s about being able to make a difference in somebody’s life. If you’re a 911 operator, and you get that phone call, how you do your job can impact the person on the other line. It’s rewarding. I believe I am truly helping people. Even if you can help just one person, it’s all worth it.”

Public Safety Communications Dispatcher Kendra Lange
“To me, there’s something new every single day. It wasn’t anything I thought I would ever want to do, but now that I’m in it, I love it and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It does bring me happiness. People truly appreciate what you do. I would continue to work here because I have a good support system inside of the police department and in the city that raised me too.”

Patrol Officer Logan Szczepaniec
“I grew up in a family of law enforcement. I grew up day-in and day-out talking to grandparents and uncles who were police officers. My dad was a firefighter, so he kind of steered me in his route, but there was always a strong influence as far as the law enforcement side. It’s in my family blood.”

Chazz Dupree. Photo by Kyle Norby

Fire Capt. Chazz Dupree
“I just realized when I grew up, I gotta figure out something I really wanna do, and what I’m passionate about is service. I liked the service aspect of it. That’s how I was oriented. Money wasn’t what made the wheels turn for me. It was doing service and helping others.”

Police Sgt. Robert Wenderoth
“I was always interested in investigations. I wanted to officially go into the FBI. At a county fair back home, I ran into some deputies and some Explorers, which is a youth group with the police departments, and I started with the Explorers and fell in love with the local aspect of it. I found my niche in investigation and decided to stick with the local route.”

Fire Chief Brady Leffler
“I have great respect for police officers. As a matter of fact, I think it’s one of the toughest times to be a police officer. My future wife is a retired Scottsdale Police officer, and I’ve got to tell you, I have the utmost respect for them. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything.”


This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

 

Submitted photo

Maricopa Police Department is ready for its eighth annual statewide event, G.A.I.N. – Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods.

This event gives people throughout Maricopa a chance to get involved with the community in terms of networking with neighborhood watch programs, local police and fellow neighbors.

“The purpose is to get acquainted in your neighborhood,” said MPD Public Affairs Specialist Ricardo Alvarado. “It’s a big thing for us because it gives us a force multiplier to have neighbors and neighborhoods participating in this event.”

The event emphasizes that more connections in the community mean more surveillance for any suspicious activity. Alvarado expressed that this kind of vigilance is incredibly helpful to police in keeping Maricopa safe.

Block parties can expect to have many visitors from city government workers, to emergency services. In past years, HOA-sponsored events with local law enforcement have included cook-outs, sports competitions and even petting zoos.

This year, G.A.I.N. will take place on Oct. 26 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. To parties interested in participating, the Police Department encourages all to fill out a registration form.

Registration information can be found on any of MPD’s social media pages as well as physical forms available at the main police station located next to City Hall or the substation located in front of Copper Sky Recreation Complex.

Additional information can be found on MPD’s official Facebook page.
Online registration forms can be located here.

 

Kevin Ramirez (PCSO)

Police arrested a man Thursday afternoon on after allegedly attempting to escape from authorities.

Two men called police after they reportedly witnessed somebody get into the fenced-off maintenance area at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado Golf Course and attempt to steal a John Deere Gator utility vehicle. The two men told the individual, later identified as Kevin Ramirez, 22, they were calling the police and took a picture of Ramirez as he fled.

The two men flagged down a nearby Maricopa Police officer after making the initial call to 911 and informed the police they witnessed Ramirez hop a residential fence into a backyard nearby.

Police observed the photos taken by the men and were able to see Ramirez was wearing a white tank top, black shorts, backpack and “white flip-flop type shoes.”

According to the police report, officers located Ramirez in the backyard of a home on Anne Lane. He was reported to be wearing black boots at the time.

While arresting Ramirez, police discovered he had allegedly stolen the boots from the backyard. According to the report, he later stated he was “hoping I could get away” and was hiding in the yard because he “didn’t want to stop.”

Ramirez was booked into Pinal County Jail on expected charges of burglary in the third degree, theft and resisting arrest.