Lawyered Up: A Crime-Scene Report Shows a Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Who Claimed to be Shot by Mexican Drug Smugglers Didn't Cooperate Fully With a State Police Probe

It's late Saturday afternoon, June 5, and the roof at Chase Field is closed for the Diamondbacks' game against the Colorado Rockies.

John McCain steps out of the Diamondbacks dugout onto the diamond.

The famed U.S. senator's mission, along with that of a new friend of his named Paul Babeu — the increasingly nationally visible sheriff of Pinal County — is to present awards to six law enforcement officers from central Arizona.

Deputy Louie Puroll getting his award at Chase Field.
jamie peachey
Deputy Louie Puroll getting his award at Chase Field.

A private corporation and a nonprofit foundation have supplied tickets to 1,600 employees of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office and their families.

The star of the pre-game festivities, the recipient who gets the loudest ovation, is a middle-aged man wearing eyeglasses and standing at attention in a crisp PCSO uniform.

His name is Louie Puroll, and he is about to win his agency's Purple Heart:

"On April 30, 2010," the announcer reads over the public-address system, "Deputy Puroll was patrolling in the Vekol Valley when he spotted several individuals transporting illegal drugs through the desert area."

"Shortly thereafter, the individuals who opened fire with AK-47-type weapons ambushed him. The suspects and Deputy Puroll fired multiple rounds. Ultimately, a bullet struck Deputy Puroll, above his kidney. Deputy Puroll has since recovered from his injury and has returned to full duty."

It seems like a happy ending for the 53-year-old deputy, who allegedly escaped serious injury or death during the gun battle.

The shootout, which captured the nation's attention, happened about three miles south of Interstate 8 near milepost 147.

The use of "allegedly" in connection with the incident — lone deputy fights off band of murderous bad guys in broad daylight and lives to see another day with nothing more than a superficial wound — seems appropriate in light of an Arizona Department of Public Safety crime-scene report obtained by New Times.

DPS Sergeant Jennifer Pinnow also uses the word in the report, noting that she assisted in "locating casings in the area where the deputy allegedly fired his rifle and handgun."

The DPS report doesn't suggest that Deputy Puroll staged the episode or that the 14-year PCSO veteran was involved in a nefarious scheme gone awry, perhaps not unlike that in which James Wren — a young Phoenix cop charged last week with stealing about $40,000 from dope dealers while on duty — has admitted involvement ("Phoenix Police Officer Charged With Shakin' Down Drug Dealers," Valley Fever blog, June 11).

Written by lead scene agent Detective Jeff Brown, the DPS report says, "All conclusions relative to this criminal investigation will be formulated by the Pinal County Attorney's Office upon review of the criminal case."

The DPS report raises more questions than it provides answers about an incident that escalated an already-volatile mood in Arizona spawned by the contentious anti-illegal immigrant Senate Bill 1070 and the late-March shooting murder — perhaps by an undocumented alien — of Cochise County cattle rancher Rob Krentz ("Cowboy Down," June 8).

For starters, Puroll did not fully cooperate with DPS detectives as they performed their crime-scene duties at the request of the PCSO.

Instead, in police parlance, the deputy "lawyered up" and followed the advice of his union (AZCOPS) attorney Denis Fitzgibbons by providing the DPS few specifics about what exactly happened out there.

The lack of cooperation by Puroll has veteran local police detectives (active and retired) wondering why.

"I don't care what the attorney recommended," says one of the detectives who read the report. "Why in the world would the deputy decline to be video- or audio-taped during his [May 3] walk-through at the crime scene? You'd think he would have wanted to lay it all out because he's the alleged victim. I think that the DPS did a good job with what [it] had to work with, but [it] might have thought about ending [its] involvement after the deputy shut down on them."

But the county agency chose to conduct all interviews — including those of more than a dozen undocumented aliens detained in the Pinal County desert within a day or so of the incident. (All those aliens have been deported, according to office spokeswoman Lieutenant Tamatha Villar.) The Sheriff's Office has just about completed its separate criminal and internal-affairs probes of the incident, Villar says, and findings are expected to be released soon.

"I do not agree that the DPS report suggests he did not cooperate," she tells New Times. "It is standard in any officer-involved shooting for the officer to be provided an opportunity to work and consult with legal counsel."

Whether Puroll submitted to questioning by criminal investigators from his own agency remains uncertain.

By law, however, the deputy had to speak with the sheriff's investigators doing the standard internal-affairs probe into the police-involved shooting.

This case looms large for Sheriff Babeu, who popped up seemingly out of nowhere next to McCain in the senator's memorable "Complete the danged fence!" campaign ad shot at the border.

Babeu appeared on numerous national TV shows after his deputy's alleged desert clash.

"This is a huge case," the sheriff said at a press conference in early May after a New Times Valley Fever blog post noted that area police detectives had contacted the paper to question aspects of Puroll's account ("Pinal Deputy Shooting Has Local Cops Scratching Their Heads," May 3).

"Multiple suspects fired on and tried to kill and actually shot one of our deputies," Babeu said. "We're in the business of facts."

Babeu then conceded that his agency had made basic factual mistakes in announcing details of the ongoing case — including its widely reported, but inaccurate, account of gunfire directed at helicopters from the ground during the hour-long desert search for Deputy Puroll.

The DPS also is concerned with the "business of facts." But the agency's crime-scene investigators were forced to regroup after they agreed not to make audio or video recordings of their walk-through of the scene with Deputy Puroll.

For certain, it was a challenging crime scene in an isolated desert locale, in a case in which the alleged suspects evaded capture and their "bales" of marijuana were never confiscated.

Some of the prime DPS findings, and other observations:

• DPS detectives found Deputy Puroll's fully loaded sidearm, a Glock pistol, at the scene. That suggests the deputy reloaded the Glock there after discharging 16 shots during the "gun battle," and then somehow left it behind as he left the area.

• A DPS evidence-recovery log shows that state detectives confiscated 29 expended shell casings from Puroll's M-16, A1 assault rifle at the scene (a magazine holds 30 bullets), and 16 shell casings from his Glock.

• The detectives collected six shell casings fired by an AK-47 assault rifle — the weapon Puroll told Sheriff Babeu that his assailants had used when ambushing him. This included four casings from the weapon's 7.62 x 39mm ammunition in one area within the perimeter, and two similar casings (same bullet type, but apparently from a different batch of ammo) in another.

• The DPS found three bullet casings from a .45-caliber handgun at the scene, as well as several unfired AK-47 magazines.

• The nine expended casings at the scene that weren't Puroll's apparently accounted for all shots that could have been fired at the deputy during the alleged gunfight. The casings suggest that it was not the wild shootout depicted by Sheriff Babeu and others. Babeu said at a press conference in early May that a full-blown firefight lasted "a minute or less," with at least two assailants continuing to fire at Puroll for about 20 minutes after the initial salvo.

• Several unfired AK-47 bullet magazines also were found within the scene, as well as food, clothing, water, a cell phone, and other items suggesting that it was a camp for undocumented aliens.

• Deputy Puroll parked his patrol vehicle about a mile from where he said the main shootout happened and set off into the desert on foot, allegedly tracking the group of five or six men. According to Sheriff Babeu, Puroll "clearly" saw that the men were lugging backpacks of marijuana — the word "bales" was used at the sheriff's press conference. But no pot was confiscated in connection with the incident, nor has anyone been arrested in the case, despite the presence of more than 200 police officers representing 15 agencies that responded after the "shootout."

• Babeu told the media in early May that Puroll checked in with a dispatcher and a supervisor just "10 minutes" before the desert shootout began. Lieutenant Villar adds that the deputy "had cell phone to cell phone contact with his immediate supervisor from the point when he first started tracking the individuals. The supervisor was en route to the scene with additional units when the shooting occurred."

• Babeu said two of the dope smugglers ambushed the officer, firing at him with AK-47s from different angles — one in front of him and the other from the side. Somehow, only one bullet grazed the deputy just above his left kidney. (The damage done by an AK-47 normally is instant and massive. Lieutenant Villar says Puroll was not wearing his bulletproof vest when he tracked the group deep into the desert.)

Another local law enforcement officer who oversaw police-involved shootings as a supervisor for about a decade, says this:

"I obviously can't tell you what happened out there. But I don't think that deputy is telling the whole story, not even close."

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33 comments
Nathan Fluet
Nathan Fluet

Paul Rubin your as big a tool as lemons your acting like the use of the word "allegedly"somehow proves the guy did something wrong or lied, its SOP for police to say that while filing reports and when speaking about a incident that there are no witnesses too.

And no shit he "lawyered up" he has to worry about you douche bags at the new times trying to create some bullshit story so they can continue there crusade against any law enforcement agency that rubs them the wrong way.

Oh and before your spewing shit about him being fired anyone with a brain can see they fired him to try and draw attention away from there ineptitude in regards to releasing the shooting suspect who is now in a standoff with chandler police holding hostages at the chandler fashion square.

All in all the "reporters" at the new times are a bunch of no talent hacks i miss the new times i used to read when i first moved to this state back when it was not just used as a tool to attack all those that the owners of the magazine have a disagreement with and as a tool to spread disinformation to the public (Lemons you know that's for you).

Paul Cechovic
Paul Cechovic

I listened to the Puroll report of the incident on the internet at a Arizona Republic web site. His story is dubious at best, but is it made up? He reported to work at 9AM. He didn't have anything to do so he decided to check out some smuggling trails. He then went to breakfast at the Iron Skillet and arrived at the trailhead where he parked his car at 2:00PM. At 2:00PM That's 5 hours later. This is his story. I am not making this up.

I could use a job like that. Get paid starting at 9AM. Go to breakfast. Get to your work location driving a county provided vehicle at 2PM. What's not to like about that kind of duty?

JF
JF

I got a laugh from the person who said there are too many "law enforcement" people in Arizona. This person must have never tried to call the police for anything and have them take an hour to get there because they are so swamped because there are not enough cops on duty. That or they may be someone who has a knack for illegal activity that they would be paranoid of there being too many cops because they notice all the cops around them because they are so worried about being caught Yes I know there are bad cops out there I come across a few myself but the vast majority of them are what they are supposed to be hard working public servants that will give their lives to protect. Tommy I respect your service and I know you are smart guy and you have some valid points but what we also know is that cops have to get lawyered up (via the police union in this case) these days even if they didn't do anything wrong. With the political climate in Arizona right now any cop that is in involved in something having to do with drug smuggling or illegal immigration would be wise to consult with a lawyer because they can be turned into a political pawn for both sides which in both cases can destroy their career. It also bugs me that some people on here are suggesting there is not a problem with drug smugglers in these areas... that these mentions of them are all made up... well how about you come live out here and see it or even just go out there at night with night vision equipment and see for yourself. Its pretty sad when so many of the ranchers and farmers are being forced to carry weapons for protection at all times down here.

Juan Mendoza
Juan Mendoza

Rubin, why don't you let Lemons do all of the conspiracy theory pieces against AZ law enforcement. He even knows when there's nothing there. Apparently you didn't get the memo. The guy was shot by an illegal alien drug smuggler. Why is that so hard to understand or believe? How about you go stand out there in Pinal county, in the desert, at night, with a PCSO uniform on and just as you're about to meet the same type of scumbags Officer Puroll encountered, you can say to yourself, "wow, they really DO exist!"

rick
rick

what also need to be investoigated is, apario was there 10 minutes after the incident. brewewr tweeted 20 minutes after . i pretty sure these two losers were involved. this all should be investigated. its all a hoax.

Marcy
Marcy

Cops have an undeserved reputation in court as telling the truth. In reality they routinely embellish the truth and in some cases simply fabricate it.

ArizonanInNJ
ArizonanInNJ

Well, we don't have to worry about fake Mexican drug dealers. Soon, with SB1070, the Storm Troopers ... er, Arizona Law Enforcement Officers will have actual American Latino fake drug dealers to lie about! Just think, Janny Brewer and Russel "White Sheets" Pearce have given law enforcement the keys to a Panzer of a law that will make this Cop look like ... well, a real hero instead of a fake one.

So, Arizona, you wanted the law, you trusted these clowns, now what are you gonna do about it?

A Set-UP!
A Set-UP!

How stupid do they think those who follow current events in Arizona are? Babeu, you need to clean house or you jeopardize the justice system. We do not need any more "tough on crime" politicos -- it's time for "smart on crime". The sick game you all play is over!! Stop ruining lives and wasting taxpayers dollars! We've had enough!!

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Arizona is a police state and all about law enforcement at the expense of the people.

Disappointed citizen
Disappointed citizen

Babau, Don't cover up for one of your own. We thought you had more integrity.

Wake Up People!
Wake Up People!

Too many law enforcement people in Arizona. They have the guns, money and power to do whatever the Hell they want. Thousands show up at a funeral. Where else do thousands show up? Who else has that power, money and control? If the legislators didn't write laws that inflame the people the officers lives would not be put at risk. It's time law enforcement challenge the legislators, many who have special interest and come from law enforcement. The people do not stand a chance against the force of power.

Not fooled by the transparent
Not fooled by the transparent

Pima County sheriff -- shades of arpaio.... we'll sell our souls to win an election. Babeau, we thought you were different. Very disappointed with your election politics.

ajibik
ajibik

The public hasn't fully trusted the MSM even before Vietnam. It seems like we only believe that which is convenient or buttresses our preconventional opinions.

bobby
bobby

i called it the day it happened ... this is more of the propaganda machine .. if those where drug dealers in the desert .. that dps officer would be dead not just wounded .. think of all the violence on the mexican side of the boarder they dont shoot to scare or mame .. they shoot to kill.. and several assailants with ak-47s...stop blowing smoke up peoples ass .. that was staged or maybe that single officer in the dessert had a cash cow come in that turned out to be a bull .. all miss information .. resist sb 1070

RG
RG

When all this happened I was talking to a friend from CA. We both thought it was kind of odd all this suddenly happening and then Arpaio out of all people leaving his command post against "latinos" to go help. We thought it is kind of "fishy" Lord and behold a month or so later it is all coming out. I really don't understand why people here in AZ don't seem to understand how all this is just a publicity stunt to make mexicans look bad, and get more sympathy and votes from People. Rascism continues in AZ, its right in front of our eyes but no one seems to notice that. I have faith that all we be cleared and come out in the open. I wonder if the Sheriff deputy will get to keep his "purple heart" medal?Will McCain will personally go and take it back from him it will make for good TV and more votes..

Guest
Guest

Is someone suggesting that cops rip off drug dealers that fabricate a hero story and then lie about the whole cover-up are well, Liars, Cheats and Thieves? The get a medal for it? Its...its...just PREPOSTEROUS! "I'm shocked SHOCKED to find gambling here at Rick's..." Too bad they didn't finish him and his dirty tin-badged pal off.

blkjck
blkjck

Bruno - does it occur to you that the deputy could have planted the shell casings at the scene? The republic article actually works against the cop's story. 45-50 shots fired from in front and the side? That is a lot of lead. There are many , many examples of cops staging crime scenes. Heck, even firefighters have been known to start fires. Take the blinders off

Bruno
Bruno

Tommy, apparently you missed the part of the story about the different shell casings and magazines found in the desert. Did you finish your career in IA or did you just not have any real crime where you worked? Anyway, read the latest article before you make the same mistake as Paul Rubin and make more wild haired assumptions:

http://www.azcentral.com/news/...

hillstreet
hillstreet

Yes, officers do have a right to have a lawyer assist them and it happens regularly....AFTER the cop shoots and kills someone, when the real specter of prosecution against the cop is present. What the hell posibility of prosecution can be possible under these circumstances? Why in the hell not cooperate with DPS after some aholes just tried to kill you? And yes, I am a cop of 20+ years and I will tell you something smells, and it is not Babeu's BS....

Futile
Futile

What the deputy did is standard procedure for an officer involved shooting. As you can imagine the Deputy was scared, in pain, and had a lot going on right after the shooting. (I for one would be wanting to change my pants.) That is not the time to be talking to antagonistic cops that want to Monday morning quarterback actions. Officers have legal representatives to assist in these situations and Deputy Puroll didn't do anything that was out of the norm or suspicious.

Hell, the guy is lucky he's alive!! I for one would like to commend him for his service and trying to stop REAL criminals. Its nice to know there are cops out there that care about real criminals and not just generating money by passing out civil violations all day.

metelhed
metelhed

This article is nothing but muckraking. Unnamed "officers" questioning a deputy? No proof, not even much conjecture, on why the AK-47 mags were found at the camp? No estimated time between the initial shoot-out and when Deputy Puroll was finally found (Enough time for the shooters to get to their vehicle and flee, perhaps)?

I think the New Times did a pretty fair story on the rancher, Krentz, but this is just junky "reporting". I myself am not convinced about this particular deputy, but if this is the best investigative reporting we're going to get, then I will resign myself to never knowing for sure.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Bruno, I am a retired law enforcement professional of twenty years service in Colorado. I actually know a bit about criminal law and investigations. We can only base our opinions on what we have been told via media reports or agency press releases. Based on what I've seen so far, including the release as reported today in the Arizona Republic, it appears there is far more to this story than it seems. Motive is always questioned, on both sides of the fence. In this case there appears to be room for a subversive motive on the part of the officer. Those who blindly support the guy should NOT be involved in law enforcement. Yes, Bruno, there are criminals wearing badges, and they are not all employed by MCSO, even though it may seem that way.

JF, do we know from forensic evidence examination, that the 'cop' didn't shoot himself? He wouldn't be the first 'cop' to do so in an attempt to gain recognition for himself, his agency, and their 'cause'. Honestly, there is LOTS of potential for an ulterior motive in this case. Again, a polygraph or voice stress analysis test would help clear the deputy of any questionable activity.

Why, I wonder, would police supervisors allow this guy to be on patrol by himself in this area, knowing the migrant and drug trafficking that apparently is happening there?

kb
kb

If it hadn't been a Sheriff's Deputy involved the headline would read: "Drug Deal Goes Bad".

JF
JF

Fact remains someone shot at a cop... be it one round or fifty rounds they shot at a cop. It is common sense that when a cop is shot at they can shoot back and defend themselves and if that means him firing more rounds then his attackers then so what! One question I have to ask how many shootouts has this reporter been in to make the call on what is considered a shootout? The only bad thing is that the scum who attacked this cop weren't killed. It is getting out of hand in that area and something needs to be done about the drug smuggling in the area... overwhelming force needs to be applied in dealing with this to show that we aren't going to put up with this. We shouldn't put up with not being able to use our own damn recreational areas because they have been taken over down there. By the way breaking the law by smuggling drugs and shooting at a cop has nothing to do with race so stop crying racism when a cop defends himself against drug smugglers its not like the cop went out in town and shot at random people because of their race.

Bruno
Bruno

Obviously, none of you leaving comments know anything about law enforcement. The way this story was written clearly illustrates why a cop involved in a shooting needs to "lawyer up." It's so easy to pick things apart and Monday Morning Quarterback while you are sitting comfortably in front of your computer. Why would ANYONE want to give a videotaped tour of a crime scene so there is even MORE for an ambitious internal affairs investigator and politically motivated prosecutor to pick apart as "inconsistent."

What happened to the New Times believing that almost all the drug smugglers are successful despite the best intentions of law enforcement in the "War on Drugs." Now they are shocked that a handful of smugglers in a remote rugged terrain were able to evade arrest?

Great job finding some old curmugeon who thinks this Deputy is hiding something. Of course, the New Times almost never does stories about politicians using cops as scapegoats to either further their careers or to limit the liability of their agency. And of course there is no mention of hundreds of cops being subjected to frivolous or politically motivated investigations when they have done nothing wrong. But that just might give the average reader a little perspective. "Lawyering up" to a certain extent is not only smart, but necessary in this current environment when cops are sometimes hung out to dry by their own agencies.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

blkjck said: ....This shooting just does not add up and it appears that Arpasshole lite, Paul Babeu, is covering up for a lying cop.

In so few words, you have said a ton. I can't begin to express the disappointment I feel with Babeu. He had me completely fooled. I thought he might turn out to be a professional sheriff in Arizona. Apparently not.

I wonder, how much influence has the Flaccid Fool from Maricopa had on him? Better yet, why? Babeu had a very comfortable election result. He doesn't need to play the MCSO shurf game. But apparently he hasn't figured that one out.

Yes, I think the Puroll 'shooting' is going to eventually found to be a sham. Yes, I am also afraid Babeu is covering it up. Too bad.

blkjck
blkjck

I am not a conspiracy theorist as a rule. But I can tell you, as a Latino whose family goes back to territorial days, that there is a concerted effort to provoke either a reaction against, or a reaction from, the Hispanic community in Arizona. Arpasshole was conducting a sweep in the days following the signing of SB 1070 when emotions were at their most raw , Brewer was toying with Latinos while she "agonized" over signing the bill and John McCain is no longer down with the brown. Latinos have been amazingly patient while they have been taunted, teased and goaded by the right wing racists. This shooting just does not add up and it appears that Arpasshole lite, Paul Babeu, is covering up for a lying cop.

AZ: Rancher's Murder, politics
AZ: Rancher's Murder, politics

How about days before the rancher was killed Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas was down there for his campaign film, then the rancher is killed, then Andrew Thomas steps down from the County Attorney position to run for Attorney General on April 1 and low and behold Andrew Thomas campaign is film talking about the murdered rancher with the Border fence as a backdrop. This should also raise red flags and many unanswered questions -- SB1070 follows along with the militarization of the Border.

All this sounds more than coincidental. After one pays close attention to what is happening in Maricopa County and the state of Arizona with all the politicos use people as pawns for political gain, we are seeing anything and everything is possible as they each one-up one another. Chad Snow please shed some light on this.

These tragic events to gain a vote show these officials have no conscience and think people are stupid. Well the jigsaw puzzle is coming together.

Coz
Coz

Puroll is lying.To many things about this situation that don't meet the smell test.

Azartist
Azartist

It is small minded (read ignorant) people like you who think law enforcement can do no wrong. At the top of the story tells of a Phoenix cop shaking down drug dealers, etc. I could go on, but why? You are probably the result of the 50th ranking in last place of Arizona's education system. Enuff said!

Fred
Fred

This event sound very shaky from the start. The fact that none of the ''bales'' of dope these mules were supposedly packing were recovered pretty much tells the story, along with only nine casings, and even those may have no connection to the event. Bullshit comes to mind.

ASmith
ASmith

I agree with you, but please be clear - this was NOT a DPS officer. DPS actually has some integrity. It was a good old boy Pinal County Sheriff's deputy.

 
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