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PCSO deputy accused of excessive force at Country Thunder
 jheadley  / 

FLORENCE — A Mesa man is asking Pinal County for $2 million after he allegedly was roughed up by a sheriff’s deputy at Country Thunder last April.

Mason Jones, 20, of Mesa has filed a notice of claim against Pinal County for $2 million in damages, saying Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputies violated his First Amendment right to free speech for falsely arresting him at the Country Thunder music celebration on April 13.

According to the claim, Jones also received an “unjustified and brutal beating,” and deputies “falsely reported the events in order to cover their criminal activity and to exact revenge.”

A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit against the county.

According to a probable cause statement authored by PCSO Deputy Mark Terry and other court records, Jones was arrested for aggravated assault and two felony counts of resisting arrest.

Jones eventually pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest in an agreement on Sept. 16. He was placed on probation for one year and banned from attending any future Country Thunder events.

“The defendant committed the above offenses by verbally engaging a uniformed deputy with vulgar language when the deputy was attempting to escort the defendant from the event,” Terry wrote in the probable cause statement on April 13. “When the deputy assisted the defendant to the ground, he began to passively resist by not allowing his hands and arms to be secured behind his back.”

Terry stated that Jones pulled back from deputies again when he was being placed into the patrol car.

“The defendant kicked his legs as the door was closing, which prevented it from being closed and locked. The defendant then began to kick the deputy in the legs and groin area. The defendant then locked his legs under the door which prevented him being secured even more. The defendant was only secured when he was pulled from the opposite side of the interior of the patrol vehicle,” Terry wrote.

Jones alleges deputies used excessive force and violated his civil rights during the arrest.

According to an interview he did with a Phoenix television station, Jones admitted he was drunk and yelled insults at deputies who were patrolling the campground. Jones was 19 at the time of the incident.

Jones said it is his constitutional right to insult government employees.

A friend of Jones’ captured cellphone video of what happened between Deputy Travis Carter and Jones. It shows the deputy pulling a handcuffed Jones to a standing position and walking him to a PCSO patrol vehicle.

On the video, Carter then turns to Jones and pushes him hard into the back fender as he holds his neck and shoves him into the back seat.

A second deputy enters the video and repeatedly tells Jones’ friends to back up. At one point, the deputy rams into the man who was recording the video.

The friend’s video does not show the door being kicked open. It only records Jones’ feet dangling back out of the vehicle for two seconds before Carter leans his body into the back seat.

Carter wrote in a report that he hit Jones three times in the face and that a second deputy pepper-sprayed Jones.

A spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office declined comment with a potential lawsuit pending.

According to the Phoenix TV station report, Carter was once suspended for going in uniform and on duty to collect belongings from an ex-girlfriend’s home. In his 11 years at PCSO, Carter also received written reprimands for not wearing a seat belt during a crash in his patrol car, failing to show up to training and failing to document a home invasion.

Carter was also one of six deputies named in a 2012 lawsuit alleging an unconstitutional search at a family’s home. The lawsuit ended in a settlement.

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Officer sees to it that ill daughter of CG firefighter has her own front-yard snow day
 mstaude  / 

GILBERT -- Two-year-old Quinn Walker is an energetic toddler who loves the movie “Frozen” and playing with her favorite Elsa and Ana dolls. She also likes playing in the snow.

Born with a heart condition and preparing for her third heart surgery in April, Quinn was not able to go with her father, Casa Grande firefighter engineer Adam Walker, and brothers, Logan, 10, and Mason, 7, when they traveled north recently for a day of sledding and snowman-making.

But on Friday, the toddler had her own at-home snow day when 5 tons of soft, fluffy, fresh snow was delivered to her house in Gilbert.

“She couldn’t go to the snow, so we decided to bring the snow to her,” said Casa Grande Police Department Cpl. Mike Bejarano, who arranged for the snow delivery. “This is all about bringing snow not only to Quinn, but also to her two brothers, family and friends, so she can have just a small wish come true.”

Bejarano learned about Quinn missing the trip to play in the snow from a nurse, Melissa Ramos. He worked with the Public Safety Foundation, Casa Grande Fire Department union and the Tate Lynch Memorial Foundation to arrange for snow to be delivered to Quinn.

“It’s a lot of snow,” Bejarano said. “It covers her whole front yard.”

Snow Day

Quinn was born with hypoplastic heart syndrome, a birth defect in which parts of the heart do not fully develop, affecting normal blood flow through the heart. She underwent her first heart surgery at 1 week old and her second one at the age of 3 months, said her father.

“Looking at Quinn, you’d never know anything was wrong,” Walker said. “She’s energetic, happy and loves to play.”

Her third heart surgery is scheduled for April. Doctors will reroute the blood vessels in her heart to help blood flow more efficiently.

Because of the upcoming surgery, Quinn’s cardiologist recommended that the toddler not travel to higher elevations, even for a day of playing in the snow.

When the family learned that other Casa Grande first responders had rallied around the idea of bringing Quinn a snow day, Walker said he felt overwhelmed.

“First responders are a big, supportive family and we very much appreciate what they’re doing for Quinn,” said Walker, who has worked for the Casa Grande Fire Department for 12 years. “When we told Quinn the snow was coming, she was so excited.”

Family and friends were invited to share the snow day with the toddler. Bejarano and his family were among them.

“We brought hot chocolate and all the items needed to make a snow man, including a carrot for the nose, coal for the eyes, branches for arms and a scarf, hat and mittens,” he said. “I can’t imagine what Adam and his family are going through with Quinn. He’s a very humble person. They have a huge support team, both fire and police. We do take care of our own.”

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Mission Royale neighbors object to smaller homes

CASA GRANDE — A handful of Mission Royale residents protested floor plans for new, smaller homes in the subdivision at Thursday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Resident Mark Ivy said he objected to having the smaller “budget” homes built near his neighborhood. Residents who bought homes in Mission Royale expected and paid for a luxury product. He knew that additional family homes would be built in the community but said the designs proposed by Meritage Homes were half the size of existing homes and didn’t fit in with the rest of the community.

The floor plans proposed by Meritage Homes would range in size from 1,218 to 2,677 square feet. According to multiple real estate websites, homes for sale in Mission Royale range from about 1,400 to more than 2,000 square feet.

“We’ve already suffered through this,” he said, referring to newer homes that were being built by a different developer on the other side of the subdivision. There are plenty of open lots in other subdivisions where smaller homes would be a better fit, he said.

One man complained about the quality of the homes built by Meritage. His home was built by the company and had several design flaws that had already caused him to make repairs to his less than 10-year-old home, he said.

Other residents raised concerns that the value of their homes would fall if smaller homes were added to the community.

“I know this is scary, but we’ve gone through this before,” said Commissioner Mikel McBride, referring to a similar situation in November 2018 with smaller homes proposed for the Villago subdivision. McBride pointed out that after the smaller Villago homes were built, many residents in the neighborhood were pleased with the results and happy because numerous empty dirt lots had been filled.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice pointed out to the commission that the city does not have ordinances that govern the size of a home that could be built by a developer.

Commissioner David Snider said the Mission Royale residents’ concerns resonated with him but the commission was limited in what it could consider when approving housing stock.

“We have no legal ability to base our decision on things that we’re really not supposed to consider,” he said.

The four commissioners who attended the meeting unanimously approved the floor plans. The three commissioners not attending the meeting were Tammy Anderson, Dennis Dugan and Fred Tucker.

The hearing to approve a site plan and conditional use permit for Riliberto’s at the southwest corner of Pinal Avenue and Cottonwood Lane was postponed after the applicant requested that the project come before the entire commission.

At Thursday’s meeting, the commission also approved:

  • The consolidation of multiple lots into one lot for Lucid Motors
  • A zoning change for a storage yard for Haskins Electric
  • A lot split for Circle K on the corner of Florence Boulevard and Camino Mercado
  • A model home complex in Tamaron

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Lawmaker wants gender-neutral Arizona driver's licenses

PHOENIX — A Green Valley lawmaker wants motorists to have more than the current either-or choice of male or female printed on state-issued driver’s licenses.

The proposal by Democrat Rosanna Gabaldon would permit a third choice of “nonbinary” for those who identify as not exclusively one or the other. Her HB 2075 would make the same option available for state-issued ID cards for those who do not drive.

“These individuals don’t recognize themselves as male or female,” she told Capitol Media Services. Gabaldon said her measure would simply recognize the identity of the people who hold the cards.

“I don’t see it as controversial,” she said.

Capitol Media Services  

Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon

But Gabaldon is facing not only the hurdle of getting a hearing for her legislation — prior efforts have fallen short — but also an active effort to legally preclude what she wants.

HB 2080, crafted by Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, would bar any state agency, board, commission or department from issuing any document that has anything other than “male” or “female” as the individual’s sex.

That’s not all.

His HB 2081 would require that birth certificates have those two as the only options. And HB 2082 would bar schools from requiring teachers and others from using a sex or gender pronoun when referring to a study “other than the sex or gender pronoun that corresponds to the sex listed on that student’s birth certificate.”

“For thousands of years we’ve had two biological sexes and we haven’t had any problems,” Fillmore said in explaining his proposals to Capitol Media Services. “

“So now if you start introducing all of this other stuff you really muddy the waters up,” he continued. “And I don’t think it behooves society, the state of Arizona, and especially the school districts, to be dealing with this.”

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services/  

Republican Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction represents Legislative District 16, which includes Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and San Tan Valley in Pinal County.

What Gabaldon is proposing is not unique. At least 15 states have “nonbinary” as an option on driver’s licenses and ID cards, most recently Massachusetts which added the option in November.

Gabaldon said the issue goes beyond providing a choice for those who don’t identify either as male or female. She said adopting her legislation would send a message about the state.

“I want to see Arizona on the front lines of recognizing diversity,” Gabaldon explained. She said she hopes Arizona gets to a point, years from now — and after her legislation gets adopted — where people “would look at that and wonder why, in the past, why anyone would have a problem with that.”

Anyway, Gabaldon said, it’s only right to treat people as individuals — without forcing them in to one or the other category.

“I want them to live a life that they recognize,” she said. “And I don’t see why Arizona would have a problem with that.”

Fillmore said he has no issue with what adults do and how they identify themselves.

“If they’re adults and want to go those different ways, whatever, I don’t have any problem with that,” he said.

“I don’t have a problem with the LGBT community at all,” he said. “I look at it, when I was a kid, the big thing was what I do in my bedroom is my own business. They are absolutely correct.”

But he said it’s quite different where children are involved.

“We get little kids that are really unconcerned or unaware even of their own sexuality being told this stuff and taught this stuff,” he said. “It creates a lot more angst and anxiety in their end, I think, than is beneficial.”

The bottom line, said Fillmore, is that all of this discussion about gender identity, particularly in the education arena, takes away the focus from the primary goal of school.

“We’ve got to get back to 2 plus 2 is 4 and keep basic educational items to allow our kids to grow up and to function in society,” he said. “And all of this sexual stuff, I don’t think should be out there at all.”

Gabaldon also is sponsoring HB 2074 which would require that death certificates reflects the person’s “gender identity.”

Under current law, she said that death certificates do not recognize “the sex that they lived, the lives that they lived,” she said. “I want it to be reflective of their gender identity.”

Fillmore, for his part, seemed bemused by the proposal.

“After they’re dead, do they care?” he asked. But he acknowledged that this could be important to survivors.