Got a text message last night from a law-enforcement pal who wrote, "If I meet you at a truck stop, can I be placed on paid leave?"
On a more serious note, news that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu yesterday ordered an internal investigation into troubling statements made to me by his deputy Louie Puroll was a big deal last night in the local media.
Babeu also suspended Puroll with pay pending completion of the internal affairs probe.
The deputy's comments and a lot more appeared in our Thanksgiving Week story "Whitewash," which was a follow-up to "Pinalcchio," our first piece on the Puroll desert shooting case.
I did some local TV stuff last night, including a live interview with Kari Lake over at Fox-10 that went okay.
Basically repeated what I had told Louie at the truck stop when he mentioned the alleged proposition to him from a buddy, i.e. the friend would kill me for having written "Pinalcchio" if he (Puroll) wished. (The deputy claimed he had talked his pal--allegedly a Latino rancher--out of doing anything stupid like that.)
I asked Louie why he had told me that.
He said that he just thought I'd like to know that a lot of people were pissed at "Pinalcchio," as if the incessant nasty calls, comments and E-mails hadn't given me a clue.
But I didn't get a chance to repeat on air what I've been saying since coming up for air after reporting the now-fabled April 30 shooting incident in remote Vekol Valley: I don't know what happened out there that afternoon, but I'm pretty sure it didn't go down the way the deputy has suggested.
I've told Deputy Puroll that same thing on at least three occasions--after his press conference at which Sheriff Babeu "closed" the case because a state crime lab didn't find any gunshot residue on the deputy's bloody T-shirt, which, to the sheriff, proved that Puroll hadn't shot himself.
As it turns out, the deputy and I spoke very cordially during our extended interviews, even though we weren't exactly operating on the same page. I enjoyed the back-and-forth and I'm pretty sure he did, too.
That said, Puroll's off-the-cuff comment to me about having been approached at the Eloy truck stop a bunch of times by purported members of the infamous "Mexican cartels" was a doozie.
It took on even greater significance because the deputy also told he hadn't reported any of the alleged would-be bribes to his agency--whose highly visible sheriff has become nationally known because of his staunch opposition to illegal immigration and the drug and people-smuggling that come along with it.
The Arizona Republic did a take on the Puroll suspension (with pay) story this morning, which
Dennis Wagner, who wrote it, is as grizzled a veteran of the journalism wars as I, and has done some fine work over the years.
But I would be remiss not to point out a boo-boo in his short piece.
Wagner writes, "In the latest story, Puroll reportedly told Rubin that he'd been in other shootouts that make the Vekol Valley even seem "like eating lunch at Dairy Queen."
Actually, the deputy made the DQ remark at his October press conference in Florence, the one where Babeu "cleared" him of wrongdoing.
When I was sitting at the Eloy truck stop with Puroll for four hours in early November, he regaled me at one point with a tale of another shootout, this one said to be at a gold mine in west Africa where he said he worked for a time in the 1980s.
He told he had gone "Western" on some would-be robbers, and I asked him if that's what he had meant at the presser by the Dairy Queen reference.
Puroll said it had.
Anyway, it will be interesting as always to see how this story continues to morph.