Crime & Public Safety

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Phoenix Police Department Will Work on Communicating Better During Protests

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:33 PM

  • Courtesy Photo

The Phoenix Police Department said they're working on better communication, regarding the launching of pepper ball ammunition and tear gas into protestors during President Donald Trump's August 2017 rally, according to a PPD internal review released on Jan. 29.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona responded by saying PPD "did not protect the First Amendment rights of protesters and caused many people to go home with cuts, bruises, and other injuries."

"There are many videos of officers attacking protesters with pepper spray and projectiles at dangerously close range," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody in the press release. "It is shocking and disheartening that the department determined this excessive use of force was justified."

Brody also asked whether the police could have used less volatile methods such as better
amplification equipment to announce "adequate orders before using chemical irritants," why they denied using foam batons on protestors and why the prolonged delay in releasing the report.

"Chief Williams has said that her officers made sure everyone went home safely," Brody said. "The truth is many peaceful protesters went home with injuries caused by her officers. The police are supposed to ensure people can fully exercise their First Amendment rights. On this occasion, the Phoenix Police failed to do that."

Police Chief Jeri Williams wrote in the internal review that communication could be improved on, adding that the police did what they could, and there were minimal injuries and little property damage.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Humanitarian aid worker charged with felony for giving migrants water, food and blankets

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 1:05 PM

A humanitarian aid worker is being charged with a felony after giving blankets, clothes, food and water to migrants crossing the desert. The group he volunteers with, No More Deaths, says the arrest was retaliation for a recent report on Border Patrol agents destroying life-saving supplies in the desert.

Scott Warren, an Arizona State University professor, was arrested on Jan. 17, near Ajo, at a location called “the Barn.” According to court documents, Border Patrol was surveilling the building when they saw Warren pull up in his vehicle and enter.

Along with Pima County Sheriff's Deputies, Border Patrol later knocked on the door and found two undocumented migrants inside, who said they found the location online as a place of refuge. The migrants said that Warren had given them supplies to survive for three days.

Warren’s official charge are “transportation of illegal aliens for profit,” and they were made eight hours after No More Deaths, or NMD, released a report detailing Border Patrol’s destruction of water, food and blankets left out for border crossers.

From 2012 to 2015, NMD distributed over 31,500 gallon jugs of water in the Southern Arizona desert, and more than 86 percent was used, according to the report. But roughly 3,500 gallon jugs of water were slashed, kicked over or poured out. The report included videos of Border Patrol agents vandalizing gallons of water, removing blankets and puncturing canned food.

The area where Warren gave supplies to the migrants is in a deadly stretch of desert where 45 percent of human remains from migrants who died in the desert while trying to reach the U.S., were found in 2017, according to NMD.

Before the year 2000, human remains were found in the desert, on average, once a month. But after 2000, remains were found every three days. The climbing number of people perishing in the desert appears directly related to a ramping up of the Border Patrol policy Prevention Through Deterrence, which closed down entry points in populated areas and pushed migrants into more remote areas.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Suspect in Jail Murder Case Undermedicated at Time of Murder

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 4:29 PM

Branden Roth, 24, was found beaten and strangled to death in his Pima County jail cell earlier this year. Recently-filed court documents show the murder suspect, King Yates, was undermedicated at the time, for a previously diagnosed psychotic disorder. - COURTESY BRANDEN ROTH'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Courtesy Branden Roth's Facebook page
  • Branden Roth, 24, was found beaten and strangled to death in his Pima County jail cell earlier this year. Recently-filed court documents show the murder suspect, King Yates, was undermedicated at the time, for a previously diagnosed psychotic disorder.

A Pima County jail inmate who allegedly killed his cellmate was undermedicated at the time of his cell mate’s death.

Branden Roth was found beaten and strangled to death, locked in a cell with King Yates, who was unharmed, on the morning of April 19.

Yates was awaiting trial for the murder of his wife Cassandra Yates. Roth had recently plead guilty to trafficking in stolen property for stealing a diagnostic tool from BrakeMax, which he pawned for a few hundred dollars.

In December 2015, Yates was found incompetent to stand trial on felony drug charges and was court ordered to take medication to restore him to competency. He was evaluated by Dr. Michael Christiansen, who diagnosed him with “Bipolar I Disorder vs Schizoaffective Disorder with Narcissistic personality traits,” according to court records.

The courts ordered Yates take a daily 700 mg of Seroquel to control psychosis. Christiansen said the medication was “ESSENTIAL in sustaining competency to stand trial. “Essential” was in all caps.

At the time of Roth’s murder, the jail was only giving Yates 225 mg of Seroquel. The jail’s medical records don’t give a reason for the lower dosage, according to court records. The day after Roth’s death, jail staff increased Yates’ medication to 400 mg.

An independent contractor, overseen by the county's behavioral health department, is responsible for deciding inmates’ medication dosages, according to the county's Public Communications Manager, Mark B. Evans

Since this new information came to light, prosecutors have withdrawn their intention to seek the death penalty.

Yates has a history of behavioral health issues. Court documents show that when he allegedly shot his wife, he told a friend, only minutes after the murder, that Cassandra had been trying to kill him. Yates’ public defender in that case told the courts she does not believe he was medicated at the time of the murder.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Tucson Peacefully Protested White Supremacy!

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 12:32 PM

"All this organization in less than a day—no sirens, no helicopters." - CURTIS ENDICOTT
  • Curtis Endicott
  • "All this organization in less than a day—no sirens, no helicopters."

Sunday, Aug. 13: We were late. Ten minutes behind the hundreds of marchers, and a four-year-old in tow. The photographer offered us a shaded seat until they circled back. But this was no time to sit still. Hate and intolerance had once more surfaced on a national level at the Charlottesville, Virginia white nationalist march. We paused to remove a rock from my son's shoe, and that's when we met Faith. She is pregnant and tired. But it feels too isolating and helpless to stay at home today. We stop for water and a hug at one of three aid stations along the route. All this organization in less than a day—no sirens, no helicopters. Then we hear the chant, "Through love, not hate, let's make America great." Black and gay, Mexican and Muslim, all were walking in unison.
But this was no time to sit still. - CURTIS ENDICOTT
  • Curtis Endicott
  • But this was no time to sit still.

As we passed frat row, six white guys hung together jeering, "Blue Lives Matter." An angry student paused to take their picture. "So that's what privilege looks like," he yells back. Then the black man beside me lays a hand on the marcher's shoulder, "They've just never had something bad happen in their lives yet." A woman up front starts to sing, "And you will know that we are family by our love, by our love." When we hit the 4th Avenue tunnel, our collective voice resounds through the streets. "And you will know that we are family by our love."
A woman up front starts to sing, "And you will know that we are family by our love, by our love." - CURTIS ENDICOTT
  • Curtis Endicott
  • A woman up front starts to sing, "And you will know that we are family by our love, by our love."

Monday, August 7, 2017

India Oven Fundraisers Continue

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 4:30 PM

More than one month after their home was burglarized, Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti continue to receive community support for their losses. The burglars claimed all of their computers, televisions and jewelry—they also inflicted permanent damage to furniture and other possessions in their home.  Following the incident, individuals and organizations banded together to help restore stability to the Bhatti's life.

Ori Parnaby, organizer of a YouCaring crowd funding campaign to benefit the Bhatti's, turned over a check for $1,540 to the restaurateurs Tuesday, Aug. 1. Fundraising efforts continue to stream in from across Tucson, though much of the damage to the home remains. Organizers of fundraising efforts ask community members to continue lending their support to the Bhattis on their road to recovery.

In the coming weeks, consider dining at the India Oven (2727 N. Campbell Ave.) or donating to Parnaby’s campaign and showing the Bhattis your support.
Related: Tucson Restaurateurs Victimized in Home Burglary, Community Unites to Support India Oven

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tucson Restaurateurs Victimized in Home Burglary

Posted By on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti with Tucson Mayor Rothschild during India Oven's 20th Anniversary celebration in 2014. - ARC PHOTOGRAPHY VIA FACEBOOK
  • ARC Photography via Facebook
  • Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti with Tucson Mayor Rothschild during India Oven's 20th Anniversary celebration in 2014.

Consider visiting a restaurant that is as warm, familiar and familial as a friend’s kitchen. Imagine the walls, lined with family photos, and the smell of cumin, coriander and chilies lingering over good company.

Since 1993, Tucson’s India Oven (2727 N. Campbell Ave.) has proudly served up a taste of Indian home cooking. Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti, the proprietors of this longtime Tucson-staple, find their second home inconspicuously nestled in a Campbell mini mall. The restaurateurs, as much as the restaurant itself, attract patrons from across the valley to experience the welcoming warmth of India Oven.

For 24 years, the Bhattis, as dedicated proprietors to their business, arrive some hours before the restaurant’s opening, and stay hours after close. On one such day two weeks ago, the Bhattis returned from a full day of work to find their home ransacked and burgled.

“We had been working here all day,” Raksha said. “We no go home until very late, sometime like 10:30 p.m., and to see our home like that…very sad. They took everything.”

It would seem the burglars left no stone unturned. Tears well in Raksha’s eyes, as she explains the totality of the burglar’s damage. Generations of jewelry, all gone; the delicate gold bands that linked Raksha to the communal memory of her parents, as well to the memories of her wedding day and granddaughter’s birth, all lost. A 65-inch, flat screen television Raksha bought for Harmesh on Thanksgiving: gone. Computers housing files and photos, as well as cameras used to document the many journeys of the Bhatti family: gone.

In addition to the many family heirlooms and memories lost to the burglary, the Bhatti’s home was also destroyed.

“They smashed up the whole couch and throw our clothes across house,” Raksha said. “They smashed up everything: all my paperwork… everything. It is very scary.”

Though Tucson police responded to the scene, no leads have been determined. Additionally, the Bhatti’s home was uninsured during the time of the accident.

“Our people do not think about it that way,” Raksha said. “I have little idea how to take insurance, I never thought we’d need it. We work 24 year in this place. We think America is good… We never think something like this could happen in our community.”

The Bhattis now set out to rebuild their home. Though the police have yet to catch the culprits of this crime, Raksha remains hopeful that good will prevail.

“At least I have this business,” Raksha said. “We will build again. It is no easy for me, but we will build again with community help.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

'A' Mountain, a Fire

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 2:33 PM

The Fourth of July is synonymous with watermelon, barbeque and fireworks. Here in Tucson, it's all those things and more, with "more" being the annual grass-fire on Sentinel Peak, aka "A" Mountain.

This years' torching was more extensive than past years, with the entire south-face of the peak erupting in flames for well over three hours.

I initially started my night at Kino Sports Park, however after seeing initial social media postings depicting the fire, I quickly jumped into traffic and headed towards the west-side. Here is a video diary of what I was able to capture:

I saw initial reports of a fire breaking out on "A" Mountain and decided to head over. Immediately after leaving Kino Sports Complex and jumping onto Campbell Avenue, the fire was visible. At this point, the fireworks show was still proceeding.

As I crossed the I-10 onto Tucson's west-side, the fire came into view in spectacular fashion. Multiple vehicles pulled off the road to witness the blaze. People looking to leave the area after the fireworks clashed with traffic returning from other parts of the city. This video is taken from a neighborhood on Silverlake Road, a little over a mile from the fire.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Have You Seen These Paintings? Cardenas Artwork Stolen From Former Bring Funeral Home Space

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 3:48 PM

Dreamer by Cristina Cardenas is one of five paintings stolen from the former Brings Funeral Home.
  • Dreamer by Cristina Cardenas is one of five paintings stolen from the former Brings Funeral Home.
On Sunday, March 26, five paintings by Tucson artist Cristina Cardenas were discovered stolen from an office space that's part of the former Bring Funeral Home on Scott Avenue downtown (236 S. Scott Ave.).

Cardenas is a member of the Citizens Artist Collective at the Citizens Warehouse, 44 W. 6th St.

Cardenas says the art was part of an informal group show. The former Bring Funeral Home is a Peach Properties space. Patricia Schwabe from Peach Properties met with some Citizens artists to ask if they would be interested in lending their work to hang in an area of the building used for office space and events. Cardenas was one of seven artists who agreed. It was on Sunday that Cardenas received an email fellow Citizens artist Titus Constanza who was reportedly contacted by Schwabe.

"'Patricia told me that your pieces are missing. Did you happen to remove them by any chance?'" Cardenas recalls.

When the paintings were stolen isn't exactly clear. Police reports were filed this week by Schwabe and Cardenas, but neither report was available at the Tucson Police Department when I went there yesterday to request copies. I was told the police were just called, so written reports would be available later this week.

Schwabe and I exchanged a few voicemails, and she responded to an email I sent asking about the theft. She wrote that a few months ago she reached out to Citizens artist Constanza about hanging art in the building.

"I love having local artists show when possible and I believe the building created a great setting. White beautiful walls. Titus was very helpful, he brought his art and later art of other artists. The building is occupied by offices mostly. The (Owls Club) bar occupies its own space, with its own entrance," Schwabe wrote.

"This past weekend I noticed some pieces missing, I contacted Titus immediately. I did not know the name of the artist that had painted the pieces missing. I did not know if she/or he had picked up the art. It was peculiar because no other items in the building were missing. I did a walk through and didn't see anything else out of the ordinary."

Schwabe wrote that her office is in the building and she is there almost every day. Constanza, she wrote, contacted the artist and told her Cardenas hadn't taken the pieces.

"Then I contacted our tenants. They were all very surprised that something would be missing. No idea of what happened and had not seen anything suspicious. ... Titus, Cristina and I met the next day and I offered to file a police report. ... I think this incident is awful, it doesn’t reflect the principles or culture of the people in the area or that visit the building. Whoever took it, took advantage of a positive situation," Schwabe wrote.

Cardenas says that she was told an event took place at the property on Saturday night, and most likely that's when the paintings were stolen—three small pieces, gouache paint on wood panel and two medium size pieces, gouache paint on wood board.

"When I went there (Monday) with Titus, Patricia showed me the nails where the paintings were hung. It would be easy to take them. There is no security camera," she says.

It's understandable that Cardenas is upset about her work being stolen and was working with Schwabe to compensate her for the paintings.

Cardenas has been an artist and art instructor in Tucson the past 30 years. Her work is part of the permanent collection at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the Museum of Art in Chicago and the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, among others.

Cardenas says the value of the work stolen comes to $6,150, and she is asking that Schwabe pay her $4,614 with half paid immediately and the other half next month. Cardenas says Schwabe had offered to pay $3,000 over several payments, which Cardenas says is not acceptable.

However, no payment is expected to be made, since Schwabe confirmed she is filing an insurance claim, but she told me she doesn't know when or if the insurance payment will be made or how long the process will take.

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