Cops: Video by Mesa Hiker Shows Former Councilman Made False Claim

Bill Jaffa said he felt "threatened" by the hiker, but police said a view shows no such thing.
Bill Jaffa said he felt "threatened" by the hiker, but police said a view shows no such thing. Elaine Norton /

Since 2016, former Mesa City Councilman William “Bill” Jaffa has called police 10 times on Hawes Trail users he accused of "trespassing" on his Las Sendas property, records show.

The territorial ex-politician is finally chilling out, but only after being embarrassed by a YouTube video that provided evidence of his aggressive behavior toward a hiker and that may lead to criminal charges.

As Phoenix New Times reported on Wednesday, Jaffa published an apology for his behavior. But sore feelings remain between him, his neighbors, and Hawes Trail users.

“It is clear that Mr. Jaffa is making a false report to law enforcement as the recording Elaine took shows she is not aggressive and there is no emergency." — Mesa police.

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A police report obtained by New Times late Wednesday reveals that a police officer found Jaffa’s behavior on July 14 toward Elaine Norton, a 57-year-old Navy veteran, “seriously disruptive in nature."

The investigation found Jaffa falsely reported the severity of his encounter with Norton, as he appeared to be the aggressor, not her.

“Based on the facts and evidence of this case, I find the actions of Mr. Jaffa are not justified as he left his own property to confront Elaine who was not on his property or in violation of any laws or city statutes,” the investigating officer wrote.

Documents also show Jaffa admitted to police he did not actually feel threatened by Norton, even though he told the 911 dispatcher he feared for his safety.

The investigating officer notes that he asked Jaffa whether he felt threatened by Norton. Jaffa did not answer the officer's question directly and instead replied, "anyone going off the trail was doing so intentionally," and to be "antagonistic."

“I asked again if she was threatening verbally or physically and he said ‘no,’” the officer wrote.

The YouTube video posted on July 14 shows Jaffa accosting Norton, who was hiking along the Hawes Loop Trail, which runs adjacent to Jaffa’s property.

The hiking trail is owned and maintained by the city of Mesa, but that did not stop Jaffa from confronting Norton, and falsely accusing her of trespassing on his property.

In the video, Jaffa dials 911 and tells the dispatcher he feels threatened by Norton, a statement investigators felt was exaggerated and untrue.

“Mr. Jaffa tells the 911 call-taker, ‘Please, it’s an emergency’ and also says ‘the woman is very aggressive,’” the report states. “It is clear that Mr. Jaffa is making a false report to law enforcement as the recording Elaine took shows she is not aggressive and there is no emergency. I find probable cause exists to charge Mr. Jaffa with … false reporting to law enforcement.”

The officer also recommended a charge of disorderly conduct. As of Thursday, city records didn't show that Jaffa had yet been charged.

Jaffa as a history of harassing hikers and mountain bikers who venture too close to his home.

In Jaffa's 10 calls to police since 2016, he made reference to “persons trespassing," the report states. According to the city, Jaffa has no legitimate reason to yell at anyone on the trail.

The area of land near Jaffa has accused hikers of accessing is owned by the city of Mesa. In a statement to New Times, Kevin Christopher, the city's spokesman, wrote:

“In July, the City rerouted a portion of the Hawes Loop Trail out of an abundance of caution concerning a potential drop-off next to the trail and directly above the Jaffas' property, which could cause injury to bikers and hikers. This new part of the trail was never on Mr. Jaffa’s property. In fact, it shifted the trail farther away from his property. The city of Mesa is going to place a fence barrier that will clearly mark the property line for the City as well as the property owned by Mr. Jaffa.”

The city of Mesa will pay for the new fence barrier separating the trail from Jaffa’s property but has yet to confirm when the fence will go up.

Jaffa is an accountant who served in the Mesa City Council from 1998 to 2002 and was previously involved in a number of city boards. He is also a co-founder of the Jolee-Jaffa Music Foundation, a music program for disadvantaged children.

“I hate to think that his businesses [might be affected] and that this is happening because I am not a mean person,” Norton said. “But he basically brought it on himself by his attitude toward bikers and hikers and his treatment of them.”

Norton is a resident of Las Sendas and one of Jaffa’s neighbors. She recalled hearing stories from other community members about their run-ins with Jaffa on the Hawes Loop Trail. So, when she heard shouting through her earbuds, then saw a man running toward her, Norton was not entirely caught off guard.

“I had been told by other hikers what he had done to them,” Norton said. “When he jumped over the wall and ran down the hill at me, that’s when I grabbed my phone and started recording.”

Norton sent the video to her husband, George, who uploaded the video on YouTube for friends and family to see.

“It kind of blew up this past weekend,” George Norton said, noting the video only had 3,000 views over the weekend. As of August 16, the video has over 87,000 views.

When video footage of Norton’s encounter with Jaffa surfaced online, Las Sendas residents reached out to New Times to report their own negative experiences with their neighbor.

click to enlarge Bill Jaffa said he felt "threatened" by the hiker, but police said a view shows no such thing. - ELAINE NORTON / YOUTUBE.COM
Bill Jaffa said he felt "threatened" by the hiker, but police said a view shows no such thing.
Elaine Norton /
They also took to the online social media platform, NextDoor, to voice their concern and frustration with Jaffa’s behavior over the past two years. NextDoor is a private social network that requires users to verify their addresses and use real names to participate in discussions and view posts. It's similar to Facebook but keeps social circles limited to neighborhoods.

Mr. Norton provided New Times with a NextDoor comment thread showing neighbor’s reactions to the YouTube video, and Jaffa's subsequent apology to the Las Sendas community.

“I’ve personally been approached by this homeowner in much the same manner as he demonstrates in the video,” one resident wrote. “It’s a very unnerving experience to occur when you’re out for recreation. Also have friends and neighbors who have experienced the same.”

“Yes, I have also been on the receiving end of that,” another user commented. “While carrying my infant.”

Jaffa issued an apology on NextDoor, and he used the same apology on NextDoor as he provided to New Times on Wednesday, saying, in part, "it was not my intention to cause stress to this hiker, for that is not who I am as an individual, or professional, but want to offer my apologies for any anxiety I may have caused her. I also want to apologize to the members of the community that have been impacted."

“Bill, you have done this for two years too [sic] many of us,” a neighbor replied after reading Jaffa's statement. “Today you found a conscience?”

Norton said she’s happy with the outcome, but would like to see clearer trail guidelines near Jaffa's home. She also hopes the video’s notoriety brings a change to Jaffa’s behavior.

“He’s wasted so much time and caused so much aggravation on the part of hikers and mountain bikers,” Norton said. “[I would like to see] a sincere apology and for him to leave us alone.”

Norton is aware Jaffa posted an apology online, but said she hadn’t read it in its entirety during our interview.

“I just don’t feel like it was sincere. I feel if he were sorry, he would have apologized a long time ago,” Norton said. “He would have stopped doing what he’s doing and apologized before it got to this point.”
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