The Arizona Sheriff’s Deputy who was shot in the desert last April by men he claimed were drug smugglers has been fired by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Deputy Louie Puroll had been under suspension and the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation for comments he made in November to Phoenix New Times reporter Paul Rubin, the same reporter who in September published a long story in which experts raised questions about the April incident and the truthfulness of Puroll’s account.
In interviews for the November follow-up story, Puroll told Rubin that he’d been approached by cartel members in the past who wanted to bribe him, and said that a friend had offered to kill Rubin for the deputy after the New Times published the critical story.
In a news release announcing Puroll’s firing, the Sheriff’s Office cited 10 department rules and policies violated by the Deputy, among them ones governing competence, ethics and truthfulness.
“I stood by my deputy after he was shot by drug smugglers in April because his statements to both criminal and internal investigators were consistent, supported by physical evidence, radio transmissions, GPS coordinates, other victims/witnesses and later through gunshot residue testing conducted on the shirt he was wearing,” Sheriff Babeu said in a statement. “The manner in which Deputy Puroll conducted himself following the shooting investigation when interviewed by Reporter Paul Rubin brought great discredit to himself and the men and women representing our sworn law enforcement profession.”
The April incident occurred shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, and it helped raise Sheriff Babeu to national prominence as a voice on border security. (He also starred in a campaign ad for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)).
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Puroll has formally appealed his termination.
Here’s the office’s full statement:
On December 1st, 2010 the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office opened an Internal Affairs investigation regarding statements Deputy Louie Puroll made to Phoenix New Times Reporter Paul Rubin. The investigation was completed by our Professional Standards Unit. As a result of the findings of the investigation, Deputy Puroll’s employment with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has been terminated effective today. The following are the ten sustained allegations.
1. PCSO Policy: 2.3.1 - Performance of Duty
2. PCSO Policy: 2.3.4 - Incompetence
3. PCSO Policy: 2.8.1 - Code of Ethics
4. PCSO Policy: 2.8.2 - Code of Conduct
5. PCSO Policy: 188.8.131.52 - Truthfulness
6. PCSO Policy: 3.5.30 - Media and Public Information
7. Merit Rule: 12.1.C.1 - The Employee Does Not Demonstrate Sufficient Competency or Efficiency to Perform Assigned Duties and Responsibilities
8. Merit Rule: 12.1.C.3 - The Employee Has Been Abusive In Attitude, Language, Behavior, or Conduct Toward a Fellow Employee, a Supervisor, or the Public; or Their Action has Resulted in Physical Harm, Injury, or Fear of it to Such Persons
9. Merit Rule: 12.1.C.9 - The Employee has Engaged in Conduct, On or Off Duty that is of Such a Nature that it would Tend to Bring Discredit to the County
10. Merit Rule: 12.1.C.25 - Any Other Improper Conduct or Performance of Such Severity as to Constitute Cause for Disciplinary Action
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “I stood by my deputy after he was shot by drug smugglers in April because his statements to both criminal and internal investigators were consistent, supported by physical evidence, radio transmissions, GPS coordinates, other victims/witnesses and later through gunshot residue testing conducted on the shirt he was wearing. The manner in which Deputy Puroll conducted himself following the shooting investigation when interviewed by Reporter Paul Rubin brought great discredit to himself and the men and women representing our sworn law enforcement profession.”
Deputy Puroll has formally appealed his termination. At this time, per ARS 38-1101(K) we are prohibited from releasing any additional facts of this investigation until the merit appeal is completed:
An employer shall not include in that portion of the personnel file of a law enforcement officer or probation officer that is available for public inspection and copying any information about an investigation until the investigation is complete or the employer has discontinued the investigation. If the law enforcement officer or probation officer has timely appealed a disciplinary action, the investigation is not complete until the conclusion of the appeal process.
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