Grant and Pinal County Sheriff ’s Office (PCSO) Detective Andrew Goode arrested a man named Ronnie Keys of Tucson after Keys attacked the officers at the Country Thunder music festival last April.
Grant was in plain clothes and was taking Keys’ wife Julie into custody after she was standing on the platform yelling to different people “Show us your (breasts)” and throwing beads to those who complied. According to the officers, that’s when her husband came running up from behind Grant and tackled him, putting pressure on his neck that Grant said made it hard for him to breathe.
Grant managed to pull out his handgun and Ronnie Keys ran about 30 feet away. Then Goode, the Pinal County detective, tackled Keys. But in the process, Goode’s leg got stuck in the mud, and he suffered serious leg injuries including a severed ligament and a fracture.
Ronnie Keys was booked into the Pinal County jail, accused of two counts of aggravated assault against an officer, along with resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.
But then Pinal County Lt. Blake King stepped in and, after consulting a deputy county attorney, arranged for Judge Pro-Tem Henry Gooday to come to the jail and give Keys a special initial appearance. Gooday ordered him released on his own recognizance.
King then arranged for Keys to be driven back to the festival and later had Keys’ DPS arrest record cleared.
In their suit, Grant and Goode accuse the sheriff’s department of negligent hiring for bringing King on board as a Pinal County lieutenant, which they claim is “beyond his capabilities.” Babeu is a former Chandler police officer and hired King, also a former Chandler officer, shortly after being sworn in as sheriff. King came aboard the PCSO at the rank of lieutenant.
King had no supervisory experience and in addition to the rapid rise in rank, he also enjoyed a $25,000 per year hike in pay when he joined PCSO.
Lt. King is currently attending the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. after being nominated by Babeu.
Ronnie Keys is the son of retired Tucson Officer Dennis Keys and Grant and Goode say in their suit the reason Keys was treated so well is because he was hanging out with offduty Tucson police officers at the festival, where a “(Breasts) and Beer” sign hung from a scaffold and young women exposed their breasts.
However, the off-duty and retired Tucson officers present at the scene accused Grant and Goode of failing to identify themselves when they came into the officers’ enclosed campsite. They said Keys was only trying to defend his wife from what appeared to be a male attacker.
This lawsuit against Sheriff Babeu is only the latest worry for him and his department, coming after three outside investigations began this spring.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is looking into possible violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain political activities by public officials working in their official capacities at local agencies receiving federal funds.
On March 14, the office requested that Pinal County perform computer searches for information regarding five Sheriff’s Office employees:
Babeu, Chief Deputy Steve Henry, community relations director Cheryl Chase, communications director Tim Gaffney and spokesman Elias Johnson. The request sought information related to Babeu’s run for Congress and Henry’s run to replace Babeu as sheriff among other topics.
A separate investigation began about the same time into the possible destruction of public records by Gaffney. On March 9, Pinal County Manager Fritz Behrning reported to the state solicitor general the deletion of thousands of files on Gaffney’s county computer.
The county’s IT staff discovered the deletions March 6 and 7 as they tried to respond to a public-records request by the Arizona Republic. One day, the drive contained 7,220 files, but the next day it had just 818.
Gaffney said that he knew before making the deletions that the files he was erasing were already backed up on another computer, and that he also printed them out first. To avoid conflicts of interest, the Pima County Attorney’s Office took over that probe.
Then there is the investigation that Babeu requested after his ex-boyfriend, Jose Orozco, claimed Babeu had threatened Orozco with deportation. In February, Solicitor General Dave Cole began looking into that allegation, along with allegations by Babeu that Orozco had committed identity theft and internet hacking against Babeu’s campaign websites.
Pinal County Supervisor and Board Chairman Pete Rios has called for Babeu’s resignation.