Sheriff Joe Arpaio has warned citizens they could be on the receiving end of “30 rounds” by his deputies.
No, Sheriff Arpaio has not lost his mind, but he is frustrated and concerned about the safety of all who live and work in Maricopa County, Ariz. The federal government has virtually ignored the illegal immigrants and drug smugglers crossing America’s southern border, he says. His deputies and a local militia group have been picking up the slack. When the gun-toting men encounter each other unexpectedly in the dark of night, attempts to thwart the national security problem at the local level have the potential to become deadly.
During a press conference, Arpaio issued a stern warning to members of the Arizona Minuteman border watch group. The public warning was uttered after a member of the group was arrested for pointing a gun at a deputy who was thought to be a drug smuggler. Richard Malley, 49, was dressed in camouflage clothing with two other Arizona Minuteman members near Gila Bend on a Saturday evening. The area is a well-known drug trafficking corridor from Mexico into the United States – about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. Sheriff Arpaio’s county is not situated on the border, but has experienced significant increases in both human and drug trafficking in recent years.
One of Arpaio’s deputies was on patrol when he came across the militia members. Court records state the deputies stopped their vehicle, honked their horn, and flashed their headlights.
After all the flashing and honking, the deputies got out of their vehicle and followed fresh footprints in the dirt. When the deputies got near the Arizona Minuteman members, Malley reportedly sprang from the darkness, raised his gun, and “yelled commands.” The deputy with a rifle pointed in his direction identified himself and pointed to the word “sheriff” across his chest, and Malley was told to drop his weapon.
The scenario could have ended with a handshake and without the need for handcuffs, but it did not. Malley reportedly told the Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies that they were not going to take his weapons. The Arizona Minuteman was carrying a knife, .45 caliber pistol, and a semi-automatic rifle — all of which were perfectly legal. While Malley had the right to raise his weapon to defend himself, he should have followed orders once he realized he was dealing with a law enforcement agent.
Said Arpaio about the encounters between his deputies and militia members, “I have to commend my deputy for not killing this person, which easily could have happened. He’s lucky he didn’t see 30 rounds fired at him. If they continue this there could be some dead militia out there. There will be chaos if you’re going to have private citizens dressed just like our deputies taking the law into their own hands.”
Minuteman style militias were commonplace on America’s southern border during the early 2000s. The trained and armed men and women of such groups patrolled the desert regions to make sure that drug smugglers and illegal immigrants were not coming into the country undetected.
American Border Patrol President Glenn Spencer stated that his civilian group will not condemn the militia organizations’ actions, but he doesn’t recommend the evening patrols. Spencer accurately noted that the Arizona militia members are not trespassing or violating any law. The ranch ranch owner and his group use unmanned aircraft and electronic sensors to monitor their section of the border.
County deputies and border militia groups would not be placed at odds with one another and face unnecessary danger if the federal government would enforce the drug trafficking and illegal immigration laws already on the books.