By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
The Department of Public Safety received a call to dispatch an officer, but the MCSO quickly waved off the state police. This was an investigation that was best kept in house.
Curious bystanders began gathering to gawk at the scene. A source informs me that folks began taking photographs of the shaken sheriff and his wrecked car, which triggered a harsh rebuke from deputies. The source said the deputies told bystanders not to take more photographs and confiscated onlookers' film.
The MCSO wouldn't respond to questions about this incident either.
According to Deputy Bierwalter's report, which I obtained under the Arizona Public Records Law, Arpaio offered a vague explanation for the mayhem:
"Mr. Arpaio said he had pulled into the parking lot of the Osco Drug store and was going to park his vehicle in a space on the north side of the parking lot when his vehicle would not stop."
In other words, Arpaio blamed the accident on the car -- which apparently seemed reasonable to Deputy Bierwalter.
He noted in his report that the sheriff didn't appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But there is no indication that Bierwalter conducted a sobriety test, much less asked Arpaio if he was taking drugs, prescribed or illegal.
Rather than conducting a thorough investigation to determine how fast Arpaio was traveling when he smashed into the curb, Bierwalter drew up a rough sketch of the accident site and called for a tow truck.
Arpaio refused medical treatment from the fire department but was taken to a hospital where he was treated for aches and pains.
The MCSO and Arpaio hoped this would be the end of the story.
But I think it should be just the beginning.
Did Arpaio's Crown Victoria -- the same model that is infamous for exploding in accidents -- really have a mechanical failure that somehow kept it from stopping?
I seriously doubt the vehicle suddenly threw itself in drive. It's far more likely that Arpaio, for whatever reason, lost control of the police cruiser.
It's well-known that Arpaio gets easily rattled and confused.
Last summer I approached him in a parking lot following a Scottsdale campaign appearance and asked why he drove his county police cruiser to political events. He became so flustered that he inadvertently turned on his flashing police lights while he was backing up.
My hunch is that Arpaio simply became confused when he pulled into the Osco lot and hit the accelerator instead of the brake. Why is anybody's guess. Maybe it's just because he's old.
The MCSO's whitewash doesn't stop at the accident scene.
County procedures require an internal investigation any time a county employee is involved in an accident while driving a county vehicle. In the case of the sheriff's office, a disciplinary review board assesses the situation.
If an employee is found negligent, he or she could be held financially responsible for damage to the vehicle.
I sent an e-mail to Lieutenant Paul Chagolla, an MCSO spokesman, asking whether such a disciplinary review board would be convened to review Arpaio's accident. Chagolla hasn't responded.
Launching politically motivated criminal investigations would be nothing new for Arpaio.
Last summer, he dispatched members of his "threat assessment squad" to interview a woman who claimed she had been raped 30 years ago by her stepson, then running against Arpaio in the upcoming Republican primary.
Despite the dubious nature of the claim and the fact that it involved Arpaio's political rival, MCSO deputies initiated a criminal investigation of Dan Saban. The department quickly provided a copy of its criminal inquiry to a Phoenix TV station.
Channel 15 broadcast a news story stating that Saban was under investigation for raping his stepmother, an allegation he vehemently denied. However, the damage was done.
Immediately after the Channel 15 broadcast, the MCSO did what it should have done from the outset -- send the case to another police agency because of the obvious conflict of interest. The Pima County Sheriff's Office dropped the case because of lack of evidence and the fact that the statute of limitations had expired.
There's the same odor of politics in MCSO's March 31 raid of Cactus Towing in Mesa.
Cactus owner Lee Watkins is a longtime political operative who supported W. Steven Martin in his failed run as an independent against Arpaio in the November general election.
No charges have been filed in the case, but the raid came at the same time Cactus Towing was renegotiating a lucrative and contentious towing contract with Mesa.
Search warrants show that the MCSO is investigating Cactus on suspicion of using police towing contracts to gouge car owners by tacking on illegal charges, keeping a second set of billing records and defrauding insurance companies.
While these may be legitimate issues to probe, the MCSO is not the right agency to be involved in the case because of Watkins' close connection to one of Arpaio's political rivals.
Cactus Towing already was under investigation by the state Attorney General's Office.
Two weeks after the Cactus raid, deputies showed up at the home of Republican party activist Charles "Chuck" Carpenter and seized two computers, CDs and a video card.