Wounded Pinal deputy fired for remarks to press

2011-01-06T00:00:00Z Wounded Pinal deputy fired for remarks to pressTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 06, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louis Puroll couldn't resist an invitation to talk, and now that's cost him his job.

Sheriff Paul Babeu fired Puroll Wednesday for comments he made to a Phoenix newspaper, the New Times, and for lying to investigators.

Puroll had kept his job through months of scrutiny after being shot on April 30 in what Puroll said was a firefight with smugglers in a remote desert valley. But after Babeu cleared him in October of accusations that he had made up the gunfight story, Puroll did an interview with a New Times reporter that led to his termination.

Puroll said in the interview that smugglers had approached him several times and said they would pay him to look the other way if he saw them in the desert, and that he had been in bigger firefights than the one on April 30. Department investigators concluded both statements were false, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Tim Gaffney.

In a news release, Babeu said: "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."

Puroll, 54, is planning to appeal the termination, said his attorney, Denis Fitzgibbons, who blamed the events on Puroll's unfamiliarity with public relations.

"When it comes to the facts of the shooting, he's been completely and 100 percent honest," Fitzgibbons said.

However, he said, when Puroll did the interview with Rubin, "you have two good storytellers sitting down for several hours, talking."

Babeu noted in the news release that he had remained loyal to Puroll while reporters questioned his shootout story, which came out during the heat of the public debate over Arizona's new illegal-immigration law, SB 1070.

"I stood by my deputy after he was shot by drug smugglers in April because his statements to both criminal and internal investigators were consistent, supported by physical evidence, radio transmissions, GPS coordinates, other victims (and) witnesses, and later through gunshot-residue testing conducted on the shirt he was wearing," he said.

Babeu continues to believe Puroll told the truth about being shot by smugglers, Gaffney said.

But a frequent critic of Babeu's, retired Mesa police Officer Bill Richardson, questioned that logic.

"If he lied to Paul Rubin, and if he lied to investigators of the Sheriff's Department in this matter, then I would be suspicious of his statements regarding the shooting," said Richardson, who writes a column for the East Valley Tribune. "I think they made a bad decision from the beginning in believing his story, because the physical evidence was not consistent with his story."

Fitzgibbons said Puroll will file an appeal with Pinal County's merit commission within the next 10 days. He expects a hearing within three months.

Contact reporter Tim Steller at 520-807-8427 or at tsteller@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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