The Plot To Assassinate Arpaio

It was a diabolical scheme. Problem is, most of it was hatched by the Sheriff's Office.

"Okay, cool," Yancy replied.

Attempting to set up his own sting, Saville said he would prepare the explosive materials for the weapon after he goes home. In fact, the explosives Saville obtained to power the bomb -- contained in nine toy rocket engines -- were never removed from a shopping bag.

"You know what, I'm gonna cut some powder up at my house tonight probably, 'cause I don't have anything to do it with here," he said.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts on his tough-guy show for the press.
photos by Paolo Vescia
Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts on his tough-guy show for the press.
James Saville was out of prison one day before being arrested.
Paolo Vescia
James Saville was out of prison one day before being arrested.

Moments later, Saville indicated he'll also finish making a "switch" sometime later. Yancy acknowledged the plan by indicating "tonight."

Saville's tactic appeared to have worked.

Around 2:30 p.m., Yancy began counting out $2,000 cash in 20-dollar bills and threw the money in the box containing the partially built, unarmed weapon.

"Can you live on this for a while?" Yancy asked.

The two men drove to the Roman Table Restaurant after Yancy indicated Arpaio was there, eating lunch. The bomb and the money were left at the hotel.

Yancy and Saville entered the restaurant parking lot around 3 p.m. A Channel 10 news crew was poised to videotape the bust.

Saville told Jacobs that Yancy asked him where to place the bomb on the car.

"He pointed, wanted me to say how I was gonna blow it up. . . . I told him well, I'm not gonna blow it up because, um, I told him not for a couple like months or so," Saville later told detective Jacobs. (The Sheriff's Office has not provided transcripts of the conversation that occurred in the parking lot.)

Saville said Yancy asked for a cigarette, then got out and went to the back of the vehicle to look for one.

"He asked me to look in the glove compartment for cigarettes and there's no cigarettes in there," Saville said.

"The next thing I know there's 100 police officers and a helicopter and everything and I'm up against the car and in another car and I don't know what the hell happened," Saville recounted.

Confused as he was, Saville was certain about one thing.

"I'm in deep shit," he told his interrogator.

The Press Conference

Arpaio's chief deputy David Hendershott had put his handgun away by the time he squeezed into a chair to begin the press briefing about 4:15 p.m. on July 9. It had only been three hours since Saville had begun building the bomb. And barely more than an hour since Saville's arrest.

Reporters were told that videotape of Saville building the bomb would be in their hands shortly.

In front of Hendershott, a 20-year sheriff's department veteran, sat a small cardboard box containing the device allegedly assembled by Saville earlier that afternoon.

Behind Hendershott hung a banner emblazoned with Arpaio's name and the department's logo. Hendershott began with a short statement.

"At approximately 3 p.m. today, a man has just been arrested who had been released less than 24 hours ago from Perryville prison. His name is James Saville.

"Mr. Saville less than a week ago indicated his interest to, quote, blow the sheriff apart with a bomb. Shortly thereafter him [sic] being released from prison he conspired with an undercover sheriff's detective and subsequently today gathered all the material necessary to make the bomb.

"The bomb is sitting here in front of me. The subject has been taken into custody . . . at the Roman Table Restaurant where he was describing to undercover, our undercover sheriff detective, how to place the bomb for its greatest impact to kill the sheriff."

Hendershott said Saville had been booked into Madison Street Jail for conspiracy to murder Arpaio.

"Sheriff Arpaio is not available at this time. He has returned to his home to comfort his wife," Hendershott said.

"The suspect James Saville in October 1997 was arrested and subsequently convicted and subsequently serving prison time in Perryville for rigging the Maryvale High School to explode," he says.

"We have recovered written plans of this bomb. We also have the suspect on tape making this bomb, which we will try to provide to you at a later time. Any questions?"

Reporters hurriedly tried to patch together details of the story, but with TV crews' deadlines fast approaching, there was little they could do to verify Hendershott's version.

Still, it became apparent that there was far more to Saville's arrest than what Hendershott was telling.

When asked about Saville's motive, Hendershott responded, "You know I can't give you all that. The one statement that he made is that he felt that if he blew the sheriff up, he would be a hero."

Hendershott didn't mention that Saville allegedly made the statement after watching a news account of the spider sculpture episode.

Asked how Saville knew how to find the sheriff's car, Hendershott said, "At the point we felt that the bomb was such that it would become a threat to the undercover officer, the neighborhood, we had to cue the undercover officer to move him [Saville] away from the scene. And that was basically having him go out and show tactically how to place the bomb at the sheriff's car."

The bomb, however, was never armed and, according to transcripts and videos, wasn't going to be armed that day.

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