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Four areas in Pinal and Maricopa counties are being scoped out by the federal government as possible sites for a recreational shooting sports pilot project. One is Box Canyon, which is already an informal shooting range on Hidden Valley Road and part of a proposed regional park.

Its status is causing a little confusion.

The new proposal, introduced by the Department of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management, makes no mention of Pinal County Open Space & Trails and its creation of Palo Verde Regional Park through Hidden Valley. That plan includes further developing the existing shooting range.

Kent Taylor, director of Open Space & Trails, was not given notice about the BLM plan until it was announced for public feedback. He is waiting to hear if his county department can be a “cooperating agency.”

The master plan for Palo Verde Regional Park, which is in its 2016 version, shows parkland running between State Route 238 to the north and Interstate 8 the south and between Hidden Valley Road to the east and the county line to the west. Several years in the making, the plan incorporates feedback from residents, who wanted only light management if any at all.

Areas were marked for hiking, horseback riding, camping and other outdoor recreation along with shooting. BLM was an important part of the creation of the proposed park.

The shooting range pilot project put forth by BLM this year, with cooperation from Arizona Game & Fish Department, proposes a “semi-developed site” with parking improvements, portable toilets and target structures. As stated in the proposal, “future development could include shade structures, permanent restrooms, overnight camping area, picnic tables and ‘projectile zone.’”

Kent and his advisory commission are hoping to evaluate the proposal and “how that impacts our future plan.”

“It’s unclear as to what level of management it will have,” he said.

The proposal may fold into the Palo Verde plan and enhance it, or it may ignore it or even conflict with it.

BLM sought public feedback on the scoping project through the month of June and held public meetings in Buckeye and Phoenix.

“We’re excited to learn from this pilot program to identify ways that we can provide greater recreational shooting opportunities while ensuring that other activities and public uses can continue to the greatest degree possible,” said Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, exercising the authority of the BLM director.

According to BLM Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas, the pilot program offers a framework for enhanced access to public lands for recreational shooting.

“We are seeking public input as we prepare an environmental assessment of the proposal,” he said.

The three other areas proposed for the pilot project are in Maricopa County – Saddleback Mountain, Church Camp Road and Narramore Road.

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

This map shows concepts of a shooting range in Box Canyon as proposed by Open Space & Trails’ Palo Verde Regional Park master plan.
This map shows concepts of a shooting range in Box Canyon as proposed by Bureau of Land Management’s pilot program.

Michael Moore. (PCSO photo)

A Maricopa man faces felony charges stemming from a shooting Saturday afternoon. As reported earlier, a neighborhood in Desert Cedars was shut down by law enforcement during the investigation.

Michael Moore, 25, is accused of shooting a female in the hand. Maricopa Police Department is still looking for a weapon.

MPD was called to the 44000 block of West Buckhorn Trail at around 1:50 p.m. May 19. Officers found a female with a gunshot wound to her left hand.

She reported told officers she was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend and they were retrieving mail at the address. A single shot was fired into the back window, hitting her hand. She gave officers the description and location of the suspect.

Officers saw a male matching the description getting into a vehicle. They conducted a “high-risk stop,” and Moore was taken into custody without incident.

The female was transported to a hospital. No one else was injured during the event.

Moore was booked in the Pinal County jail on charges of aggravated assault, endangerment and possession of drugs. MPD stated there was “no clear motive,” which is still being investigated.

Moore is scheduled for a hearing in Pinal County Superior Court on May 22.

Enjoying the great outdoors safely

Photo by Mason Callejas


As prime outdoor recreation weather moves into the area, it’s important to emphasize some of the basic safety advice all hikers, campers, park visitors and recreational shooters should remember – respect each other’s presence, follow posted regulations and shoot responsibly.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, shots fired across the open desert can travel for more than a mile.

BLM does not manage any shooting areas on Arizona public lands. The lack of regulation can often be dangerous with many shooters of varying skill levels firing powerful weapons sometimes recklessly.

In January one such incident occurred near Buckeye when a young, expectant mother was struck in the chest by a stray bullet while at a public shooting area with family. Kami Gilstrap, 24, died at a hospital.

Gilstrap was not the first to suffer such a fate. Trails and campsites near public and private shooting areas make for potentially hazardous conditions.

Multiple hikers have been struck by stray or accidentally discharged bullets in the greater Phoenix area in recent years, including a 35-year-old man shot in 2015 while hiking in South Mountain Park. Though it was determined the male hiker was off trail, the nearby Phoenix Rod and Gun Club was investigated as a possible source of the bullet.

Shooters who plan to target shoot must remember shooting is only allowed 100 yards away from any major road, and one mile from an inhabited structure. Always shoot against an adequate backdrop and follow standard safe shooting practices. And clean up after yourself.

Hikers and off-road enthusiasts planning a desert excursion should do some research about the locations of both public and private shooting areas. Stick to marked trails and avoid areas within a 2-mile radius of shooting areas.

Carry an adequate supply of water, a cellular phone and notify family or friends of the general location and intended duration of a planned hike or camping trip.


AZ BLM Shooting Guidelines – BLM.gov/arizona/target-shooting
Unlawful Discharge of firearms – ARS 13-3107 – AZLeg.gov/ars/13/03107.htm
AZ Shooting locations –AZShooters.org/map

This sidebar appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Chaienne Zoller and Kyle O'Hare were leaders of a brief student protest and tribute to high school students and staff gunned down in Florida.

Maricopa High School students have demanded gun law reform after participating in a demonstration on campus last week.

Students walked out of their classrooms Feb. 22 in tribute to students and staff who were killed in a recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The local demonstration was one of many that have taken place at schools nationwide. It has prompted students to call on adults for action.

“I don’t think it’s right and I think personally they need to fix it,” said 18-year-old MHS student Kyle O’Hare. “I’m not saying you can fix everything in the world, but try, add more things in, be more strict with gun laws.”

Students used their voices to take leadership of the impromptu protest Thursday. O’Hare and classmate Chaienne Zoller, 17, took leadership of the event after they said some students were not taking the matter seriously.

Zoller said she directed students to participate in a moment of silence for each of the victims gunned down in the attack after O’Hare said a prayer.

“I basically told them, ‘You guys do this every morning for the people who fought for our country; let’s do this for 17 minutes for people who just went to school,” Zoller said.

Students have said they’ve been criticized by adults they know for speaking out but said spreading awareness of their stance is worth it.

After the demonstration, Maricopa Unified School District announced it would hold a school safety forum March 1 at the District Administration Building.

The community meeting will take place inside the Governing Board Meeting Room and will feature a panel of local leaders and public safety personnel who will participate in a discussion with students and parents.

Representatives from other area schools have been invited to attend.

One adult who has voiced his support of students’ right to be heard is MHS Principal Rick Abel.

Students said before he asked them to return to class Thursday, he thanked them for a respectful demonstration, calling their compassion “a sign of maturity.”

“As a member of the MHS Staff and our community, I am very appreciative and proud of the efforts of our students yesterday. We are all saddened by the events that took place in Florida. Our students found a positive way to express our support for the families involved in that tragedy. They were respectful and were great representatives of Maricopa. Our work now is to do all we can to make sure that our campus is safe. Our best safeguard is the willingness of our students to say something if they see or hear something. We are all in this together,” Rick Abel said in a written statement.

Students said they are planning another walk-out at MHS in the future and signing petitions for school safety nationwide.

“We’re not just sitting here; we want change, and people have lost lives and now we’re sick and tired of it,” O’Hare said.

Reporter Joycelyn Cabrera contributed to this story.

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Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

Pinal County prosecutors have until March 7 to decide if they wish to seek the death penalty against a woman accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend in Maricopa.

Kathryn Sinkevitch appeared before Judge Kevin White in Superior Court Monday. The 32-year-old Tempe woman is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Maricopa resident Michael Agerter, 31. He was shot to death Dec. 16 in the garage of his rental home in Rancho El Dorado.

Family members of both were in the courtroom.  The Agerter family sat in the front row, straining to see as Sinkevitch was led into the busy well of the court. Wearing eyeglasses and a maroon jumpsuit, Sinkevitch appeared in jail shackles, her hair in braids.

During the hearing, prosecutor Sean Coll’s motion to take DNA evidence from Sinkevitch was granted. Prosecution and defense have also filed motions regarding access to the rental home and the logistics of getting permission from the person currently controlling the property.

Coll also said his office was still studying the possibility of seeking the death penalty.

Public defender James Mannato said his case was “still a little up in the air” over that.

“We do not want the wheels of capital punishment to go into motion,” he said.

Agerter’s family is circumspect about the idea.

“I don’t know if she did this. If she did do it, I want her to pay for what she did,” Agerter’s mother Leslie Agerter said in an interview last month. “I’m not looking for revenge. Hopefully, the law will come up with the right punishment.”

Sinkevitch and Agerter had a child together, a boy who was only a month old at the time of his father’s death.

The oldest of the four Agerter children, Michael came to Arizona six years ago from Ohio for a job but remained close with his siblings. Leslie Agerter described her son as “a caring, giving person.”

She said he started dating Sinkevitch about three years ago. Kathryn came with him to Ohio a couple of times to visit family.

The relationship was “up and down,” Leslie Agerter said. Though Mike talked about backing away, he hesitated because she didn’t have a job at the time and would suffer financially from a breakup, his mother said.

Leslie Agerter said the family was unaware of domestic violence allegations until the day after Mike had to get medical treatment. She said he called and told them some of Sinkevitch’s violent behavior. She said Mike had planned to leave, but then Sinkevitch found out she was pregnant.

Leslie Agerter called it a “toxic relationship” that forced her son to file for an order of protection against Sinkevitch.

She said that was also why he moved to Maricopa. After an allegation Sinkevitch stole his dog and was showing up at the Maricopa property, he asked his landlord for permission to install security cameras.

He also filed papers to seek custody of the child, whom he never met.

“He was being a man and wanting to take care of his son,” his mother said.

Dec. 16, he had just given a DNA sample in the custody case and was heading back home to Maricopa when he called his sister in Ohio. Instead, his mother answered the phone. They spoke briefly before Leslie handed the phone to her daughter.

Brother and sister talked all during his drive home. Meanwhile, Leslie left her daughter’s house to return to her own home a short drive away.  When she walked in the door, she discovered her daughter had been trying to reach her.

“She said they were still talking when he got to his house. She said she just heard a bang,” Leslie Agerter said. “And he wasn’t there anymore.”

Neighbors on Sagebrush Trail reported gunshots to law enforcement. From Ohio, Leslie Agerter was also trying to reach Maricopa Police to ask someone to go check on her son, not knowing they were already responding to the scene.

He was discovered deceased in the garage. His family saw the scene online from various media outlets before the appropriate person at Maricopa Police Department could officially inform her of what had transpired.

Footage from the surveillance camera at the side of the garage showed a school bus driving past the house before a figure entered camera range from across the street. It was apparently a female in a hoodie that obscured her identity.

The person left camera range by walking into the garage. A few moments later, the person left quickly, crossing the street and getting into a white caravan, which left the scene.

Sinkevitch was arrested Dec. 22 in Avondale by U.S. Marshals Fugitive Taskforce.

“If it was her, she didn’t need to go to extremes,” Leslie Agerter said. “They could have talked through this.”

Arizona Department of Child Safety took custody of the child and allowed family visits.

During Monday’s brief hearing, Leslie Agerter sat at the back of the gallery, child in arms, before the case was called. When Sinkevitch family members sat next to her, she said nothing but the bailiff had them move to the opposite side of the room.

The next pre-trial hearing is set for March 27 at 9 a.m.

MPD is still investigating a homicide in Rancho El Dorado. Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa Police Department has identified the man who was shot to death in his garage Friday as Michael Agerter, 31.

Officers responded the home in the 43000 block of West Sagebrush Trail at around 2:28 p.m. after receiving calls of shots being fired. The callers also described a possible female leaving the area in a white minivan, possibly driving. She is described as approximately 5-foot-5, wearing blue jeans and a dark-color hoodie.

The minivan left the area at a high rate of speed after the shooting.

Agerter was found dead from gunshot wounds. The weapon is described only as a handgun at this point.

“We believe this was not a random act of violence,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said.

He said detectives are looking at surveillance footage from the home.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call MPD at 520-568-3673 or the crime tip line at 520-316-6900.

Maricopa Police are investigating a shooting death on Sagebrush Trail. Photo by Mason Cajellas

Maricopa Police Department has identified the man who was shot to death at a home in Rancho El Dorado on Friday but cannot release the name publicly until next of kin is notified.

Finding those relatives in the Midwest has been difficult, according to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

Police are also looking for information on a white minivan that witnesses saw at the house around the time of the shooting. The minivan may or may not be related to the incident, but police want to hear from anyone who may know the identity of the owner or the whereabouts of the van.

If the minivan is related to the shooting, the owner could face charges. No license plate number is available.

The incident was first reported to MPD around 2 p.m. Friday when witnesses described three shots being fired in the home on Sagebrush Trail. A man’s body was found in the garage. The medical examiner’s office transported the body Friday night and a positive identification was made.

Anyone with information on the white minivan is asked to call MPD on its non-emergency line: 520-568-3673.