Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's Police State Capitol: Sal Reza's Arrest Report

The Arizona Capitol Police have released a partial report on the wrongful arrests of Salvador Reza and Anayense Garza on February 24 at the state Senate building. At several points it contradicts state Senate President Russell Pearce's assertions, as well as the probable cause statements submitted by the Capitol Police in the incident.

First, it's pretty clear that despite Pearce's contention that there's no "blacklist," he has, in effect, turned security provided to the Senate by the Sergeant at Arms, the Capitol Police, and Arizona Department of Public Safety officers assigned to the Senate, into his own private KGB.

Plainclothes DPS officer J. Gentry Burton, in his supplement to the report, notes that, "several subjects had been restricted from entering the Arizona State Senate building by Senate President Russell Pearce."

(You can read the entire report, here.)

DPS Sergeant Jeff Trapp, who along with Burton arrested Reza and Garza that day, goes even further. Writing of the events of February 22, during a marathon, anti-immigrant Appropriations Committee hearing, where Reza and hundreds others watched the proceedings from an overflow room, Trapp recalls the following:

"At approximately 2230hrs, Senate President Russell Pearce approached me and requested that the offenders from the overflow seating be identified, photographed, and that the information be posted at the Senate guard desks and that these offenders be denied further entrance into the Senate."

The "offenders" he speaks of, were "offenders" because they were applauding a Television screen, as they observed a hearing that was happening in an entirely different room. One to which the activists were denied.

Trapp later states that photos were not taken, but that he obtained pics via the Internet of Reza and radio show host Carlos Galindo, who had been 86'd from the Senate for different reasons. He gave these to security with a slip saying the folks in question were banned.

Though the probable cause statement for Reza asserts that Reza was informed the night of the hearing that he was persona non grata, all the actual report says is that Reza was asked  to tell people to stop clapping on the 22nd, and he refused. He was not trespassed that evening, nor was he told that he could not come back.

The first Reza heard of his "ban" was when he walked into the state Senate to meet with Senator Steve Gallardo. Told he had to leave a public building, he naturally asked to see some proof of this unconstitutional "ban" in writing. But they gave him none. When he refused to leave, he was collared. 

Burton was the officer who put Reza in cuffs. Reza says he was slammed up against the glass wall window in the Senate lobby. Burton finesses this, writing that he put Reza "in an OCCS twist lock and moved him up against the wall."

Similarly, Sergeant Trapp essentially admits that he pulled Garza's hair when he arrested her.

He states in his supplemental report, "I took Garza to the ground by pulling her hair through the doorway and Officer Burton assisted in cuffing her."

Real tough guys, manhandling a little lady like that. I've seen both Trapp and Burton. They each look to be over six feet tall. Garza looks like she's 5'1" or 5'2". She was armed only with a smart phone, with which she was filming Burton and Trapp as they took Reza into custody.

BTW, her phone has been confiscated as "evidence."

One other conflict: Pearce in his statement on the incident, said Garza, "screamed that someone had a gun, causing a panic in an adjacent room hosting another hearing." 

The police report does not say Garza screamed any such thing. Rather, someone in an adjoining room called 911 and misreported that there was someone in the building with a gun.

(Oddly, Pearce turns a blind eye to people packing heat in the state Senate, so why would people be alarmed by what Pearce allows?)

According to Garza's lawyer, Gabriel Sayavedra, Garza sustained bruises and other injuries from her treatment. Indeed, the report mentions that she asked a member of the Capitol Police for medical attention. He told her she could get it at the Fourth Avenue Jail.

Asked about the claims by Burton and Trapp that Garza fought the two DPS officers like a wildcat, Sayavedra observed that such claims are standard practice from cops when they rough someone up.

"That's a common practice of police agencies, when they hurt someone," he said. "They make up a story about how someone was attacking them, they had to protect themselves, and that's how the person being arrested got hurt."

Sayavedra also pointed out that -- ban or no ban -- Reza cannot go back to the state Senate now because of the conditions of his release on the trespassing charge. You know, returning to the scene of the "crime," and all that.

Trapp says Reza was banned under "Senate rules," but there's nothing in the Senate rules that explicitly allows the Senate President to create a "blacklist" or ban people. 

However, the rules do state that the Senate President "shall preserve and maintain order and decorum," and that the Sergeant at Arms takes his orders from the Senate President. 

And, in truth, that's probably broad enough to allow Pearce to act like Hosni Mubarak used to, before Mubarak was booted from office. But all tyrants get shown the door eventually, often as a byproduct of  their corruption and absolutism. 

Pearce is not immune to this truism. What DPS has to ask itself is, does it want to be lumped in with Pearce's excesses? Or put another way, do Burton and Trapp want their entire careers in law enforcement defined by such incidents? Ditto the Capitol Police and the Sergeant at Arms. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons