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Video: Junior storytellers ready to share Casa Grande history
 mstaude  / 
 02.28.20

CASA GRANDE — Colt Calloway, 9, likes telling stories. When he stands before a crowd, he hopes to keep his audience entertained with an animated and dramatic storytelling style.

As one of five area elementary school students chosen as a Casa Grande Junior Storyteller, Colt and his friends will take the stage as the headliners for a March 14 fundraiser at The Museum of Casa Grande.

“Steaks and Stories” is described as an old-fashioned cookout during which “the tales of yesteryear will be told by Casa Grande Junior Storytellers,” according to a flier for the event.

Organized by Rick O’Neil, a member of the Casa Grande Historic Preservation Commission, the event features stories of Casa Grande’s early days told by kids.

“I’m not really nervous to tell the story to a big crowd. I’ve done it before,” said Colt, a Mary C. O’Brian Elementary School student who presented his story at a recent meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission.

The four other junior storytellers are students at Mesquite Elementary School. They are:

  • Sarah Reyna
  • Madison Duckworth
  • Jesse Bridgewater
  • Jaylene Varela Vargas

The junior storytelling project is a combined effort of the Historic Preservation Commission, The Museum of Casa Grande and the Casa Grande Elementary School District.

“The purpose is to help the community of Casa Grande gain a better sense of its identity — traits, values, goals and attitudes,” O’Neil said. “It does this by training young fourth and fifth graders to present short historic stories at public events that either illustrate items of community identity or give context to our historic structures.”

Among the stories to be told at the fundraiser are tales of a secret room at Casa Grande City Hall, how the Francisco Grande Hotel came to Casa Grande, how a fire in 1914 nearly wiped out downtown and stories about early residents who helped promote and develop the city.

O’Neil hopes the stories spark an interest in local history among a younger generation of Casa Grande residents and newcomers to the community.

“I think there is an issue of people not understanding the community,” O’Neil said. “Casa Grande is 40 times larger today than it was in 1940. As a community, we’re open to newcomers but find ourselves asking how do we get people onboard with who we are as a community.”

Traditionally, he said, the city’s history is told through lectures led by older generations, often lecturing to people of their own generation.

“We want to draw younger people,” he said. “This way, we have kids presenting, reaching their generation and their parents.”

When Colt told his story to the Historic Preservation Commission, the meeting drew one of its largest attendance numbers, about 50 people.

The young storyteller walked to the podium and told a story about the birth of William O’Neil, using an animated, theatrical storytelling style.

O’Neil said the storytellers were selected for their presentation style.

“We wanted elementary school kids who are verbally fluid and like getting up and talking to crowds of people,” he said. “We want them to be theatrical when telling their story and be good readers.”

On Thursday, the five storytellers gathered at Mesquite Elementary School to meet with Mayor Craig McFarland, who gave them each a city pin.

“Meeting with the mayor and receiving the city pins lets these students know that their community service is important,” O’Neil said.

Steak and Stories is from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, at The Museum of Casa Grande, 110 W. Florence Blvd.

As well as stories of Casa Grande’s early years, the event features live music from Red Rock Crossing Band and dinner.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at The Museum of Casa Grande or Foothills Bank.


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Pinal resident among those arrested by FBI as neo-Nazis targeting journalists, activists
 jheadley  / 
 02.27.20

ARIZONA CITY — The FBI raided a house in Arizona City in its investigation into a neo-Nazi group, known as Atomwaffen, that has been targeting journalists and racial activists in four states.

Four racially motivated violent extremists from across the U.S. were arrested and charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle with conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists, U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran announced. Wednesday’s arrests and searches by the FBI and local law enforcement were coordinated by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Seattle, Tampa, Houston and Phoenix, according to the FBI.

One of the four arrested was Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek. The house raided in Arizona City is considered to be a second residence Garza shared with another man. Justice authorities seized many items in the raid, including electronics and computers. Others arrested by the FBI in this case include Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington, Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas, and Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida.

“These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington. “As Attorney General William Barr has made clear, rooting out anti-Semitic hate and threats of violence and vigorously prosecuting those responsible are top priorities for the Department of Justice.”

Defendants are accused of creating and coordinating the delivery of threatening racial posters.

Federal Bureau of Investigation  

FBI An Arizona City man is accused of gluing this poster to the bedroom window of an editor for Arizona Jewish Life magazine. The bottom line says: “You have been visited by your local Nazis.”

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and FBI-Tampa have been focused on identifying and eradicating the threat posed by the Atomwaffen Division both locally and nationally,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “Today’s arrests send a powerful message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal conduct based on hateful ideology. We will continue to work with our partners here in the Middle District of Florida, and elsewhere, to devote our resources to investigate and prosecute those who aim to threaten and terrorize our communities.”

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate. The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color. Cole and Shea created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language. The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically, and the co-conspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.

In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two individuals associated with the Anti-Defamation League. In Tampa, the group targeted a journalist but delivered the poster to the wrong address. In Phoenix, the poster was delivered to a magazine journalist.

“These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

Garza is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Phoenix, and then the case is expected to be transferred to the court in Seattle, according to the FBI.

In the criminal complaint, Garza was under surveillance by law enforcement on Jan. 25.

“Shortly after midnight, the vehicle was parked near an apartment complex in Phoenix, Arizona where a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists resides. At least one of the vehicle occupants exited the vehicle. The occupant returned to the vehicle, and the vehicle proceeded to the residence of an editor of a local Jewish publication,” the complaint reads.

The complaint states that Garza and the other person in the vehicle were seen running from the residence back to the vehicle. They then left the area. The FBI reports the editor found a poster titled “Your Actions Have Consequences” that included the editor’s name and home address on the bottom. The poster was glued to a bedroom window, on the north side of the editor’s home.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Seattle, Tampa, Houston and Phoenix.