Louie Puroll, the fired Pinal County sheriff's deputy who famously reported being shot in April 2010 by a band of drug-toting illegal aliens in the remote Vekol Valley between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, has lost a bid to get his job back, a sheriff's spokesperson tells us.
Sheriff Paul Babeu fired Puroll in late 2010 after the 15-year veteran of the central Arizona agency lied to internal affairs investigators about the content of a startling interview he did with us inside an Interstate 10 truck-stop restaurant some weeks after the controversial desert shooting incident, an alleged clash which the deputy sustained a superficial gunshot to his lower back.
The spokesperson, Tim Gaffney, tells us that he can only confirm that Pinal County's Merit Commission yesterday afternoon upheld Puroll's firing on seven of the nine counts that the agency brought against the deputy. The vote came after an oft-delayed hearing that spanned a period of several weeks.
We went down to the hearing room in Florence (the seat of Pinal County) in June for the opening of Puroll's, but was shut out with other media after the ex-deputy exercised his right to keep the sessions closed to the public.
That surprised us, as we had thought Puroll was chomping at the bit to explain himself to the world.
Would have loved to have sat in and reported on it, but at least it was nice to get out of Phoenix for a bit.
Puroll's attorney, Casa Grande's Denis Fitzgibbons, seemingly a good guy (no matter what he said about us on behalf of his client), claimed in pre-hearing papers about the truck-stop interview that caused the deputy so much grief:
"Deputy Puroll did not consider this an official interview; rather, it was an opportunity for him to come face-to-face with one of his biggest critics ... when they were not talking about official matters, Deputy Puroll spoke to [us] in a joking and theatrical manner. Because this portion was merely an animated conversation between two great storytellers, Deputy Puroll did not violate policy."
We appreciated the compliment about the storytelling part (we can vouch that Louie Puroll does tell a hell of yarn--really), but the interview was as "official" as any other. We took extensive notes, and openly tape-recorded the thing.
We hope to speak with Fitzgibbons later in the day to hear what he has to say about the board's ruling. If we get ahold of him, we'll blog about it.
Gaffney tells us that he's precluded from getting into the specifics of the vote until the official findings of fact are issued, probably sometime next month.
Quick historical bit:
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The Puroll shooting occurred one week to the day after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, the deeply divisive anti-illegal immigrant bill.
Sheriff Babeu--then a rising star on the national political scene--tried at first to use the incident as a graphic example of the federal government's continued failures to "control" the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The shooting brought the telegenic sheriff a lot of publicity, as did the controversy over Puroll first sparked by the publication of "Pinalcchio" and exacerbated by the deputy's over-the-top comments in the follow-up piece.