The Department of Public Safety on Wednesday said it had a more limited role in investigating the shooting of a sheriff’s deputy than has been suggested by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
At a news conference, Sgt. Kevin Wood, a DPS media relations specialist, contradicted a statement Monday from Pinal County authorities that the agency agreed Deputy Louis Puroll was shot by drug smugglers.
“DPS did not draw any conclusions from the part of the investigation they had,” Wood said. “That would be wrong for us to do, and we didn’t do it.”
However, Wood said DPS would only clarify its role in the investigation, not what the investigation had found.
Puroll and his boss, Sheriff Paul Babeu, attracted national attention in April, shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, when Puroll said drug smugglers ambushed him in the desert. Puroll suffered a flesh wound to his side.
In some news coverage, law enforcement officials have questioned whether the incident could have occurred as Puroll described. Wood said Babeu first asked DPS to conduct a criminal investigation but hours later requested that it conduct only the crime scene investigation. Wood called this unusual but within the sheriff’s purview.
“We were asked to investigate the shooting scene alone,” he said.
Wood said the shooting scene was maintained by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office from the night of the Friday shooting until the following morning, when DPS returned. This is common practice for a shooting that happens in the late afternoon or evening hours, he said.
“Oftentimes the best course of action is to secure that scene until daylight the next day to make sure the investigators don’t miss anything because of darkness,” he said.
Wood said the DPS investigation didn’t include the Puroll’s vehicle, which wasn’t at the scene.
When asked if DPS could draw any conclusions from this, he said, “A conclusion about a shooting in Pinal County, handed by Pinal County, would have to come from Pinal County.”
Wood also said DPS had yet to test for gunpowder and lead on Puroll’s shirt, which he said Pinal County authorities provided to the agency Tuesday afternoon because of confusion as to whether it should go to Tucson or Phoenix.
Tim Gaffney, a spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, didn’t return voicemails left on his office phone and cell phone Wednesday afternoon.