Reports document desert shooting of Pinal County deputy - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Reports document desert shooting of Pinal County deputy

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Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 1:36 pm | Updated: 2:51 pm, Thu Jun 17, 2010.

A southern Arizona sheriff's office has released some reports of their investigation in the desert shooting of a deputy, hoping to squelch rumors that the incident was a hoax timed to enflame the debate over illegal immigration and cartel bloodshed.

The independent DPS crime scene reports detail parts of the frantic April 30 search for Pinal County Deputy Louis Puroll after he called 911 and reported he had been ambushed by suspected marijuana smugglers in the desert about 50 miles south of Phoenix.

They also reveal that several illegal immigrants caught up in a law enforcement dragnet reported they had been victimized by armed bandits the same day.

A report of investigators' interview with Puroll showed that the deputy's statements mirror those given by sheriff's officials in the hours after Puroll suffered minor wounds in the shootout.

"If you know him, that's not within his character," Chief Deputy Steve Henry said Wednesday about rumors that Puroll had concocted the incident. "I just don't think anybody could fake that."

Puroll was shot twice in a location without vital organs, bones or muscles. A sheriff's spokeswoman said he went to dinner at a local restaurant after leaving the emergency room. No witnesses to the shooting were located, nor were any of the dozens of suspected illegal immigrants caught in the dragnet tied to the assault.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety report released this week showed that Puroll also was not in uniform at the time of the shooting, although a sheriff's spokeswoman said in the days after the shooting that he was wearing his standard "range officer" uniform.

The report said Puroll told investigators he arrived in an area known as the Vekol Valley south of Interstate 8 at about 2 p.m., parked his vehicle away from a trail used by smugglers and walked to the top of a hill to watch for activity.

Puroll said he spotted five people carrying heavy backpacks and phoned his sergeant and dispatchers for backup before tracking the suspects. The deputy said he was cresting a hill and speaking with his sergeant on a cell phone when a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle "presented himself from behind a bush and began firing at him, striking him once."

Puroll returned fire with an AR-15 rifle and his pistol, then hid in the brush until help arrived.

The report suggested Puroll stumbled onto a rendezvous location for smugglers or a lookout post. Investigators recovered food, a stove and other camping items.

The assailants apparently left behind a .22-caliber pistol, binoculars and cell phone linked to a battery charger.

Henry said the gunmen may have had a vehicle nearby and escaped before backup officers arrived.

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