Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pinal County deputy in desert shootout fired over comments

Disgraced Pinal County deputy Louie Puroll with Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeau

A Pinal County Sheriff's deputy who purportedly was wounded in a gun battle with drug smugglers last year has been fired for making false statements to a journalist.

In a news release, the Sheriff's Office said Deputy Louie Puroll was terminated for 10 violations of departmental policy governing ethics violations, incompetence and truthfulness.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said in the statement that he stood by Puroll's controversial claim of being in an April shootout because the account was supported by evidence. However, Babeu said, comments made by the deputy to a Phoenix New Times reporter "brought discredit to himself and the men and women representing our sworn law enforcement profession."

Puroll suffered a minor flesh wound in a shootout that propelled him and Babeu into the national media spotlight in the heat of public debate over border security and Arizona's tough immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070.

After the incident, numerous law enforcement experts and others contended that Puroll fabricated the entire incident based on physical evidence and inconsistencies in his story. Babeu stood behind the deputy's account, and a Pinal County Sheriff's investigation concluded that the incident was authentic.

Puroll was suspended last year for comments he made to New Times.

In one interview, he told the newspaper that he had been approached by Mexican cartel members and asked to help them. In another, he told reporter Paul Rubin that a friend had offered to murder Rubin in retaliation for critical news stories.

Puroll, a search-and-rescue deputy with 14 years on the force, was placed under investigation because he had never reported those matters to his superiors or to other law enforcement.

Despite Puroll's questionable comments in the media, Babeu has maintained that the deputy's shootout with smugglers was validated by evidence.

Puroll could not be reached for comment.

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