The case has been at the center of his argument that the tactics of drug smugglers have changed recently, that they have become more violent and organized. (An argument he made in a recent interview with TPM.)
On August 2, Babeu appeared on Fox News and told Sean Hannity: “This is America, and we have armed paramilitary squad-sized elements coming through our county every day and every night, and they even ambushed one of my deputies.”
Expanding on Babeu’s argument that the attack used “paramilitary” tactics, Gaffney told TPM that “when the shooting began these individuals were spread out much like tactics learned and practiced in the military.” But according to Puroll:
Everything occurred here within a 25 or 30 yard circle at most. I don’t think those people who were shooting could actually see me, ‘cause the rounds were all cracking in air above my head. Nothing struck ‘round me close in the dirt or anything like that.
On May 1, The Arizona Republic reported that “Babeu said Puroll was tracking the smugglers, who left behind large quantities of marijuana.” Puroll said he suspected the men he was following were drug smugglers, and he said that five of the six men he saw that day were carrying large backpacks — but no evidence was ever recovered.
On May 3, Babeu appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s show on Fox News and said that Puroll “found some actual backpacks of marijuana and some other suspicious activity.”
The New Times’ Paul Rubin reports that at a press conference on May 4, Babeu “conceded that some information released by his agency in the hours after the incident was inaccurate.” Among the corrected errors Rubin lists: “That the smugglers left behind “bales” of marijuana as they fled. Authorities confiscated no contraband.”
Gaffney told TPM that “Deputy Puroll was following the smugglers to see where they would leave the marijuana they were backpacking. We have evidence bays stuffed full of the backpacks that we seize every week. It is common practice for smugglers to backpack the marijuana through Pinal County and then leave it in a location until it is picked up. Deputy Puroll reported this as well that he was following them to see where they would leave it.”
Additional reporting by David Taintor.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com