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The Spider Mafia
In case you missed the hilarity in an Arizona Republic story Sunday that was toned down so as not to offend too many readers in Sun City and other Sheriff Joke Arpaio strongholds:

The Jokester told the daily that the "bomb" in the shape of a metal spider sculpture left outside Arpaio's house on April 24 was retaliation for his ordering some of his Internet admirers to take his likeness off their site, a site that not only celebrated the dubious lawman but also the Trenchcoat Mafia duo, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who mowed down 13 people before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20.

The sheriff craves every bit of attention he can get (his employees say he devours this column every week, and is greatly disappointed when he isn't mentioned), but even the Bombastic One realized that it did him no good to be worshiped by neo-Nazi Internet dipshits.

How did the Joke come to link his Internet admirers with the spider bomb? The pro-Trenchcoat Mafia site was on the World Wide Web, and hey, "Spiders live in webs, don't they?" Inspector Clouseau, er, Sheriff Arpaio, said.

While Arpaio spun his paranoid fantasy to rapt television reporters, the Republic reported the more mundane truth: The inert, hollow sculpture had been stolen from a front yard in a probable domestic dispute. The bomb squad nonetheless disabled it.

If the Republic has come to realize that the Joke's rantings about death threats are about as lame as his qualities as a sheriff, some television stations still don't get it.

The mo-rons at KSAZ Channel 10 treated the episode as a major news event. They led with a graphic that read "Sheriff Jo[k]e" in large letters as a reporter spoke gravely about numerous threats against the Sher which had to be taken very, very seriously. (Imagine any station leading a story about Jane Hull or Skip Rimsza with the graphic "Governor Jane" or "Mayor Skip.") The spot then featured Arpaio saying that he was sick of "all of these threats" and that he was planning to round up all of the people who had been making them.

No doubt he will make some arrests, if only for the benefit of Channel 10 reporters to come running to report it.

The Joke's employees know what the sound and fury about death threats is really all about. They note that Arpaio has blustered about threats whenever he's faced periods of negative publicity. And, they say, Arpaio expects to face some of the worst publicity of his career soon.

Sheriff's insiders tell this Burst of Light that two weeks ago, Arpaio and his minions were in a near panic as they believed indictments from the U.S. Attorney's Office were imminent.

"That Thursday night [April 15], they were scrambling to put together some sort of press conference the next morning," an Arpaio mole says. "They expected indictments to be announced Friday morning. I guess they've heard something from the U.S. Attorney's Office."

Presently, U.S. Attorney Jose de Jesus Rivera is handling numerous investigations of Arpaio and his chief aide, David Hendershott. Rivera's office is coordinating probes of the death of inmates and of Arpaio's tactics in firing employees he doesn't like. FBI agents investigating the cases have also been asking employees about missing posse money.

In the meantime, Arpaio wages his "death threats" campaign. And, as a consummate media ho, he knows that nothing gets publicity and sympathy like animal stories. For years he's lobbied to have the county's animal control department put under his control, only to be fended off by the Board of Supervisors.

So, in typical fashion, the Jokemeister plans to go around the board. The sheriff has announced that he will build a 300-unit dog kennel near Tent City. Although the Joke has told his underpaid detention officers that he can't spare them another dime, he's somehow found the cash to build the kennels and feed an army of dogs. Arpaio plans to adopt the animals in his own version of the county pound.

No doubt Channel 10 will be first on the scene when Arpaio breaks ground for Dog City.

The Flash wonders how long it will take for Joke and his underlings to start offing canine inmates.

Over a Barrel
Just as when bad guys shoot police officers, trigger-happy cops also provoke The Flash's sense of moral outrage.

But an April 24 shooting truly takes the cake. If you didn't catch the story, here's the gist: Police were called to break up a post-prom party in a room at the Homewood Suites in north Phoenix. It's a routine replayed at dozens of hotels in every city during prom season.

 

Except in this case, an 18-year-old Barry Goldwater High School junior named Justin Franco allegedly stuck his head out the hotel room window, afraid of getting caught drunk and looking for an escape route--Oh no, I'm underage and my parents would freak if they found out . . . --that sort of thing. Waiting outside the hotel, Officer Patrick Brutto, with three years of experience on the Phoenix police force, did the only thing he could under the circumstances.

He shot Franco in the head.
Whoops.
The local broadsheet reported that one partygoer, who received lacerations from flying glass, said he repeatedly asked Brutto and other officers why Brutto had fired. How frustrated he must have felt. Imagine having a friend bleeding profusely on the floor from a serious gunshot wound while officers refuse to answer. They must have needed time to get their story straight. And, eventually, they did. Ready? Here it is:

Police thought they saw the student holding "something shiny." Like what? Car keys? A can of Bud? Some sort of weapon, police say. You know, the shiny kind. Not that there were any weapons found at the scene.

They also told the press the gun discharged due to Brutto's "sympathetic reflex" while grabbing Franco with his free hand.

But if he was close enough to touch Franco, he also should have been able to see that the young man obviously wasn't armed. Why did he need his pistol drawn to stop a tipsy teen from climbing out a window? This isn't a SWAT raid on a crackhouse, this is a prom party.

Furthermore, police claimed that Brutto was in the process of holstering his gun when it discharged. So here's the scene: The officer was on the ground, the student is about six feet up at a window, and the gun was accidentally fired into Franco's skull while the cop was putting it away. . . . Can't picture it? Neither can this Burst of Light. Neither can Franco's parents, who've hired an attorney. The Flash suspects Franco's parents have a "sympathetic reflex" to kick the Phoenix PD's collective ass.

Bruce Phillips, the attorney hired by Franco's parents, also noted that the bullet only pierced one of the windowpanes--indicating that the sliding window wasn't overlapping and perhaps barely open or even closed when the bullet pierced the glass. Phillips says this is consistent with what witnesses told him--that Franco was merely standing at the window and Brutto never touched him before shooting.

Perhaps that's why police are now saying Brutto was grappling with "somebody" at the window when the weapon fired. "Somebody" that's possibly, but not necessarily, Franco. Jeez, how many people can fit in that window, anyway? As to the windowpanes, police spokesman Mike McCullough says he can't say for sure, but noted that on the news video he saw, it looked as though both panes of glass were broken.

McCullough was asked if officers aren't trained to holster weapons before laying their hands on a suspect.

"In a perfect situation, absolutely," he says. "Unfortunately, this is a simultaneous situation . . . and you're talking about a multitude of things happening in a short period of time."

Fortunately, doctors say Franco will live and even recover--the bullet shattered his jaw and lodged near the base of his skull, missing all the important stuff.

The Republic, truly adding insult to grave bodily injury, has saddled this story with headlines such as "Prom Night Party Out of Control" and "Teen's Family Lines Up Lawyer"--as if high schoolers deserve bullet wounds for being loud on prom night, as if Franco's parents are the villains here.

Fly in the Ointment
The spell that U.S. Senator John McCain cast on Washington, D.C., and put the Beltway into a slumber while he went about the business of creating the image of a presidential wonder boy seems to have been broken.

Washingtonians are discovering that Humble John, who poses as a high-powered statesman and military genius, can be just as petty as any small-bore pol.

Even the Washington Post, on whose editorial voice and news pages McCain relies to promote his sagacity, has opened fire.

On the April 21 editorial page, under the headline "Sen. McCain: The Dulles Mess," the Post lashed out at McCain for using his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to hold up $170 million in improvements at Dulles Airport.

Why? Because McCain's efforts to add 48 new flights to the older, near-town Reagan National Airport have been foiled, and he's inflicting revenge by delaying Dulles improvements.

"The senator from Arizona would like to see new flights from Arizona into Reagan National, where they don't belong for a batch of solid and long-standing reasons," the Post wrote. Reagan National is already overburdened.

 

As the Post knows--as does anyone who understands McCain's motives in situations such as this--he's pandering to his political benefactor, old pal Bill Franke, chairman of America West Airlines, who wants nonstop service to Washington from Phoenix.

The Post isn't the only McCain mutineer.
The Palisades Citizens Association, representing 2,000 homeowners whose residences along the Potomac are under the flight path to Reagan National, is boiling about McCain's attempt to add flights.

In a letter to the editor of the Post, Palisades association president Penny Pagano ridiculed McCain for sponsoring legislation that would limit flights over the Grand Canyon to protect Arizona wildlife, while advocating flights into Washington that would threaten migratory birds in the C&O Canal National Park in the Palisades area.

In the citizens group's latest newsletter, members also are being polled on their own revenge--whether to remove the 40-year-old name of "Arizona Avenue" on one of the Palisades' main thoroughfares.

If that happens, would we have to change the name of Washington Street?

Feed the Flash: voice, 602-229-8486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com


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