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No bomb found after Florence threat; suspect arrested
  • Updated

FLORENCE — A stretch of State Route 79 north of downtown Florence was closed for 6½ hours Thursday after a man who claimed to have a bomb refused to exit his car in the federal immigration detention center parking lot.

The man finally surrendered, no bomb was found and the road was reopened to normal traffic around 1 p.m., Florence Police Chief Bruce Walls said.

“It seems like he was not in his right mind,” Walls said.

Arrested was Patrick Michael Gerola, whose last known address was in Superior. He was taken into custody at approximately 11:53 a.m. without incident. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said Gerola’s motives for the strange behavior are unknown at this time.

At approximately 5:57 a.m. an Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisor called the Florence Police Department to report a suspicious male in a vehicle honking the horn and making bomb threats in the parking lot of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Facility located at 3250 N. Pinal Parkway.

Upon arrival, officers noticed a red 2001 Isuzu Rodeo located 100 yards west of State Route 79 in the ICE parking lot matching the description of the suspicious vehicle, PCSO said. Officers noticed a male in the driver’s side of the vehicle who was acting in a suspicious manner.

“Due to the serious nature of the call, the Pinal County SWAT team was activated, along with the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Bomb Squad. Florence Fire, Pinal County Emergency Management, the FBI and ICE SRT (Special Response Team) also responded to assist,” PCSO said in a press release.

Gerola has been booked into the Pinal County jail and is charged with: Terrorism (Class 2 felony), Disorderly Conduct (Class 1 misdemeanor), Trespassing (Class 2 misdemeanor).

“We are grateful for the teamwork between all involved agencies to bring this matter to a peaceful resolution,” said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

Liam, Sophia in various forms, were top names for Arizona babies born in 2020
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PHOENIX — If you’re having a baby boy this year, don’t name him Liam or Noah unless you want him to just be another Tom, Dick or Harry.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those names, old or new.

It’s just that for yet another year Liam and Noah remain at the top of the chart for all baby boys born in Arizona this past year.

Sure, there were some Toms — or, specifically, Thomases — that were born in Arizona in 2020.

But just 91 of them, according to figures released by the Arizona Department of Health Services, which keeps track of such things.

And there weren’t even enough Richards or Harrys to make the agency’s Top 100.

By contrast, there were 442 children named Liam. Put another way, that means that more than one out of every 100 baby boys born this year in Arizona is named Liam.

The same more-than-one-in-100 situation exists for girls, with the name Olivia standing out among parents for names for their female offspring for yet another year. That is followed by Emma, Sophia and Mia.

So what’s with the popularity of Liam, an Irish variant on William?

A decade ago it didn’t even crack the Top 20.

It could be the effect of movie and pop stars like Liam Neeson, Liam Hemsworth or even Liam Gallagher.

And names beyond that?

Well, perhaps it’s just a sign of the COVID-19 times. But parents of newborn boys in Arizona are turning increasingly to the Good Book when looking for names.

How much?

This past year, more than half of the Top 30 names for boys can be found in the Bible.

That starts with No. 2 Noah which a decade ago was in tenth position but nowhere in the Top 20 for decades before that.

But this year there’s also Mateo which is a Latin version of Matthew, Benjamin, Elijah, James, Daniel, Ezekiel and David in the Top 20, along with Samuel, Luke, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph in the next 10.

For girls, the picture is quite different, though to be fair that could be because the Bible kind of gives short shrift to female figures.

Instead, there’s a certain volatility over the decades among what parents name their female offspring, perhaps affected by everything from literature to film.

Consider Jessica, Ashley and Amanda, the top names for girls born in Arizona in 1990. Nowhere on the Top 100 this year.

Oh, and spelling counts.

The way the health department records the list is how the parents list it on a birth certificate.

So, for example, Sophia comes in just third with 344 girls with that name in 2020. But add another 146 Sofias and 63 Sophies and you now have the No. 1 name for girls.

There are other signs of volatility among names for girls.

Consider Nevaeh.

It’s “heaven’’ spelled backwards. And it appears to have taken off after Sonny Sandoval, frontman for the Christian rock group P.O.D. — Payable on Death — chose that name for his newborn daughter and took her on MTV in 2000.

By 2007 it made it into Arizona’s Top 20.

And now? No better than 70th.

It’s been even worse with other names that used to be popular, like Heather and Jessica and Stephanie, all in the Top 20 three decades ago — and not even cracking the Top 100 this year.

Conversely, there are some names that are popular now that were pretty rate even a year ago.

Gianna was just No. 51 for 2019. And Mila wasn’t even among the 100 most popular this year.

Top names for boys born in 2020 in Arizona

  1. Liam
  2. Noah
  3. Oliver
  4. Mateo
  5. Benjamin
  6. Elijah
  7. Sebastian
  8. Alexander
  9. Julian
  10. James

Top names for girls born in 2020 in Arizona

  1. Olivia
  2. Emma
  3. Sophia
  4. Mia
  5. Isabella
  6. Amelia
  7. Camila
  8. Charlotte
  9. Ava
  10. Luna

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Pinal state lawmaker wants AG to investigate Pima County's curfew
  • Updated

PHOENIX — A state legislator is asking Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate whether Pima County is acting illegally in establishing and maintaining a curfew.

Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, is questioning the authority of the county supervisors to tell people they cannot be out between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for certain specified reasons. That, Roberts said, may conflict with the executive orders issued by Gov. Doug Ducey as part of his declared state of emergency which says that no local government can have rules or regulations that are stricter.

Roberts, who said two thirds of his legislative district is in Pima County, said he believes that the supervisors are acting without legal authority.

“I fully support the personal choices and efforts made by individuals to help curb the public spread of the corornavirus,’’ he said. “But I absolutely reject government mandates that erode personal liberty or punish businesses who may already be financially struggling as it is.’’

The board’s 3-2 vote came after county officials cited a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases and the threat of hospitals in Pima County running out of space. It directs the health department to enforce the curfew until the rate of spread of the virus drops below a certain level.

It is not an absolute ban.

People will still be able to go to work and shop for groceries and drugs. Similarly, they remain free to go to drive-up windows at fast-food outlets no matter the hour.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said it is aimed primarily at bars as well as restaurants which, after 10 p.m., he believes are little more than bars where the virus can spread easily.

That goes to Roberts’ point about harming business.

“Bars and restaurants have employees that are dependent upon that income,’’ he told Capitol Media Services. And Roberts said some are privately owned by people who have their life savings tied up in the business.

“What Pima County has done is put something in place that’s preventing those individuals essentially from providing for their families and their livelihoods,’’ he said.

Nor does the fact that it’s only a partial curfew convince him that the order is proper.

“Any limitation that’s being put in place that’s over and above what is stipulated shouldn’t be put in place,’’ Roberts said, calling the order “a clear case of dangerous government overreach.’’

Huckelberry’s position is that the board, through its powers over public health, has inherent powers to take the actions necessary to curb the spread of disease. Enforcement, he said, can be accomplished by the power of the health department of revoke county-issued operating permits or licenses of businesses that do not comply.

Complicating the legal issue is that Ducey directive.

“No county, city or town may make or issue any order, rule or regulation that conflicts with or is in addition to the policy, directives or intent of this executive order,’’ the governor mandated in May.

An opinion by Brnovich one way or the other has no legal force or effect. And even if Brnovich were to conclude the county is acting illegally, it would require a court action to overturn the curfew.

Roberts suggested that he was looking for guidance to “help inform me and other legislators whether legislative action is needed.’’

There is no legal deadline for Brnovich to act.