Au­dit: 50 firearms miss­ing at MCSO

Re­view was or­dered af­ter gun stolen from of­fice was used in I-17 shoot­ing

The Arizona Republic - - Viewpoints - Uriel J. Gar­cia

At least 50 firearms are lost or have been stolen from the Mari­copa County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice, ac­cord­ing to an on­go­ing in­ter­nal au­dit.

Sher­iff Paul Pen­zone an­nounced the find­ings Fri­day. He had or­dered the au­dit af­ter a gun­man used a stolen Sher­iff ’s Of­fice gun in a shootout with po­lice on In­ter­state 17 in Novem­ber.

That man, who of­fi­cers shot and killed, had two MCSO weapons, po­lice said.

The num­ber of miss­ing or stolen firearms could in­crease as the Sher­iff’s Of­fice con­tin­ues its au­dit, Pen­zone said. He added that the guns were stolen or went miss­ing be­fore he be­came sher­iff in Jan­uary 2017, in­di­cat­ing it hap­pened dur­ing for­mer Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio’s 24year tenure.

Still, Pen­zone didn’t say how long the weapons have been miss­ing, as the au­dit is on­go­ing.

Pen­zone said among the 50 firearms miss­ing are 29 fully au­to­matic weapons, 20 short-bar­rel shot­guns and one short-bar­rel ri­fle.

In con­nec­tion to the au­dit of the weapons, Pen­zone also said he has tem­po­rar­ily suspended the of­fice’s Qual­i­fied Armed Posse, which al­lows armed civil­ians to pa­trol with deputies.

He said he did this be­cause a sep­a­rate au­dit found that of the 235 en­rolled and work­ing mem­bers, four had com­pleted all six stages to qual­ify for the posse.

This, too, came from poor man­age­ment from “past ad­min­is­tra­tions,” he said.

Those stages in­clude do­ing a back­ground check, per­sonal his­tory in­ter­view, a poly­graph test, a urine test, a psy­cho­log­i­cal exam and be­ing cer­ti­fied to use and legally use a firearm.

While Pen­zone didn’t men­tion Ar­paio’s name, he in­sisted the over­sights in weapons and the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the posse mem­bers oc­curred be­fore he took of­fice in 2017. Some of those posse mem­bers how­ever have con­tin­ued to work un­der Pen­zone.

“We must be an or­ga­ni­za­tion of high in­tegrity and ethics in ev­ery­thing that we do,” Pen­zone said, in­clud­ing in ac­quir­ing and main­tain­ing firearms. “We will meet the high­est stan­dards.”

He apol­o­gized to the armed posse mem­bers who may have been blind­sided by the tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of the pro­gram. But Pen­zone said be­cause of the fail­ures of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, he can’t con­tinue to over­look the lapses.

In or­der to re­cover the miss­ing or stolen guns, he said that his of­fice, along with the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives, will send let­ters to 7,300 for­mer and cur­rent MCSO em­ploy­ees ask­ing them to re­turn the weapons or, if they have in­for­ma­tion about weapons’ where­abouts, to no­tify au­thor­i­ties.

Pen­zone said those who may have re­ceived a weapon as a gift not know­ing it was stolen or be­longed to MCSO are go­ing to be asked to re­turn it im­me­di­ately.

For the posse mem­bers who wish to con­tinue to vol­un­teer once the pro­gram is re­opened, he said, they have up to 60 days to com­plete the manda­tory process.

The posse is some­thing Ar­paio prided him­self in. But al­low­ing peo­ple to vol­un­teer with­out go­ing through the qual­i­fied pro­ce­dures was a sign the for­mer sher­iff used the posse mem­bers for po­lit­i­cal theater, Pen­zone said.

Pen­zone had or­dered an au­dit for

his of­fice’s weapons af­ter Phoenix po­lice found Ar­naldo Car­aveo, 27, had been in pos­ses­sion of two stolen Mari­copa County Sher­iff’s Of­fice firearms — a ri­fle and a long gun — when he got in the shootout with of­fi­cers in Novem­ber.

Car­aveo, who was killed in the shootout on In­ter­state 17 with De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety troop­ers, had a his­tory of traf­fick­ing in stolen prop­erty, some of which may have in­cluded firearms, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Ar­paio told in Novem­ber that his of­fice took re­spon­si­bil­ity once he found out about the miss­ing or stolen weapons in a pre­vi­ous au­dit in 2016.

In that au­dit, 29 weapons were iden­ti­fied as ei­ther stolen or miss­ing from the Sher­iff’s Of­fice some­time be­tween 2010 and 2015.

“My only com­ment is that when some weapons weren’t ac­counted for, my staff took ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion,” Ar­paio said in Novem­ber. “I’m not sher­iff any­more. I’m not privy to all the files, and I’m not privy to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Ap­par­ently, that au­dit didn’t iden­tify all the miss­ing weapons, Pen­zone said on Fri­day.

A search-war­rant af­fi­davit filed in Mari­copa County Su­pe­rior Court shows that Mesa po­lice had re­ceived a tip from a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant in Oc­to­ber 2012 in­di­cat­ing Car­aveo was “in­volved in the traf­fick­ing of stolen prop­erty and was re­spon­si­ble for or­ga­niz­ing bur­glary crews to ob­tain prop­erty to sell, with an em­pha­sis on ob­tain­ing firearms and high­end elec­tron­ics.”

Of­fi­cers did not con­fis­cate any weapons dur­ing the search of Car­aveo’s prop­erty, ac­cord­ing to the search war­rant re­turn, but they did seize other items, such as elec­tron­ics, drug para­pher­na­lia and mar­i­juana.

Car­aveo was sen­tenced in 2014 to three years in the Ari­zona De­part­ment of Corrections for sec­ond-de­gree bur­glary and ag­gra­vated as­sault. He was re­leased In April 2017.

Po­lice ar­rested and jailed Car­aveo again Sept. 21 in Mesa af­ter of­fi­cers pulled him over for speed­ing.

When they stopped him, he ran from the car, stum­bled and fell un­der a bush, court records said.

Po­lice took him into cus­tody and found two hand­guns nearby, in­clud­ing one that was stolen out of Phoenix.

He was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of theft, pos­ses­sion of drug para­pher­na­lia and weapons vi­o­la­tions.

The case was pend­ing in Mari­copa County Su­pe­rior Court when he got in the shootout and was killed.

Sher­iff Paul Pen­zone

Ar­naldo Car­aveo

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