The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department fired Deputy Louis Puroll Wednesday, eight months after he reported being in a shootout with smugglers in a remote valley.
In a news release, Sheriff Paul Babeu cited Puroll’s statements to a Phoenix New Times reporter for firing the deputy.
“The manner in which Deputy Puroll conducted himself following the shooting investigation when interviewed by Reporter Paul Rubin brought great discredit to himself and the men and women representing our sworn law enforcement profession,” Babeu said in the written statement.
The termination came after Babeu defended Puroll for months while outsiders questioned his story of tracking smugglers April 30 only to be ambushed by them and slightly wounded in a firefight. The reported shootout brought a massive response from area law-enforcement officers, who found neither shell casings, marijuana nor other evidence of the smugglers.
Twice, Babeu responded to reports about the incident in the Phoenix New Times by re-opening an internal investigation into Puroll. The first time, in October, Babeu had the Arizona Department of Public Safety test the T-shirt Puroll was wearing the day of the shooting to find out whether he was shot at close range and whether the wound therefore could have been self-inflicted.
On Oct. 7, Babeu announced that no gunshot residue was found on the T-shirt, and he cleared Puroll, who strongly defended himself and admonished his critics during a press conference. But six weeks later, another article appeared in the New Times, in which Puroll told of being approached by smugglers offering to pay him to look the other way, and of hearing a threat on the reporter’s life. Dec. 1, Babeu opened a new investigation into the remarks Puroll had made, noting that he hadn’t reported these incidents to the department.
Puroll has formally appealed his termination, the news release said.