MSNBC's Tamron Hall Floats Conspiracy Theory That Arizona Deputy Shooting Was 'Staged' to Gain Support for Immigration Law

On Thursday's 11AM hour on MSNBC, anchor Tamron Hall described "growing controversy" surrounding the recent shooting of an Arizona sheriff's deputy by illegal immigrant drug smugglers and noted how: "The Pinal County sheriff released the 911 tapes the injured deputy made, in response to what he called 'growing speculation' that the shooting was staged." [Audio available here]

Hall brought on Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu to respond and grilled him on the conspiracy theory put out by the left-leaning Phoenix NewTimes: "a report...comparing the deputy who received that wound...to another officer who had staged a gun battle. The allegation here is that this shooting...was to supposed to help convince people that the tough Arizona law against immigration was needed, that this was the example that you could hold up as proof. What do you say to those claims that this was all staged?"

Babeu replied: "Well, we in law enforcement operate in the realm of facts....We don't have the luxury to operate just with all these wild ideas that could be out there." He went on add: "So this news account, they didn't have the benefit of any of the facts. In fact, they didn't even talk to me or anybody from my agency."

In fact, the Phoenix NewTimes admitted the article was pure speculation on their part: "Again, we have no evidence at this point that suggests Deputy Puroll is anything but a stellar peace officer. But, as we say, questions quietly have arisen among some law-enforcement types about the bizarre incident in the desert last Friday afternoon."

Hall continued to press Babeu: "the article says that you've conceded that some of the early reports about the incident were confusing and sometimes incorrect. The incidents that they use is that a helicopter crew responding to the emergency mistakenly reported that it came under fire when it did not." Babeu acknowledged that inaccurate report, but pointed out that "oftentimes" may occur "in a crisis literally when an officer-involved shooting." He asserted: "this incident is not something that is made up. It is something that literally happened."  

Again hall suggested a conspiracy to pass the immigration law: "But sheriff, I know that you've been a prominent supporter of the new law in your state....So without a doubt are you – again, these folks who say this was staged or perhaps linking some of your beliefs to this....Do you say that they are lying, they are liars and are putting shameful things on the heads of your deputies who put their lives on the line?"

Hall concluded the segment by remarking: "Well Sheriff, thank you very much for coming on and responding to some of those allegations that are out there and some of the theories, I should say."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

11:43AM

TAMRON HALL: We are learning new details today about the growing controversy surrounding a fierce gun battle in the Arizona desert between a deputy and a group of suspected drug smugglers. The Pinal County sheriff released the 911 tapes the injured deputy made, in response to what he called 'growing speculation' that the shooting was staged.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Arizona Gunbattle; AZ Sheriff Releases 911 Tape Amid Speculation Gunbattle Was Staged]

During part of the 911 call, you can actually hear what appears to be gunshots in the background.

[CLIP OF 911 CALL]

[GUN SHOTS]

DEPUTY LOUIE PUROLL: I've been hit, I've been hit, I've been hit.

DISPATCH: Are you okay?

PUROLL: Hell no, I'm not okay. I've been shot. Tell my wife I love her.

DISPATCH: Louie, don't talk like that, okay? How are you doing, buddy?

DISPATCH: Louie, I have deputies in the area looking for you.

[END OF CLIP]

HALL: Joining me live from Phoenix in Pinal County is Sheriff Paul Babeu. Sheriff, thank you for joining me. So there was a-

PAUL BABEU: Absolutely. Good morning.

HALL: Good morning. There was a report on a – Phoenix NewsTimes comparing the deputy who received that wound, I believe it was a surface wound, comparing him to another officer who had staged a gun battle. The allegation here is that this shooting with alleged drug smugglers was to supposed to help convince people that the tough Arizona law against immigration was needed, that this was – the example that you could hold up as proof. What do you say to those claims that this was all staged?

BABEU: Well, we in law enforcement operate in the realm of facts and actual, 'hey, what really happened?' We don't have the luxury to operate just with all these wild ideas that could be out there. And I can tell you that this area is a known corridor for smuggling, both the drugs and human trafficking. And you can see the intelligence photographs that we have taken have shown squads of paramilitary smugglers that have operated in this area that carry semi and automatic –  fully automatic weapons. And this is what we encountered.

So this news account, they didn't have the benefit of any of the facts. In fact, they didn't even talk to me or anybody from my agency. And what we wanted to do is be fully transparent, released all this information showing that we had not only shell casings in the areas where these people fired, we had separate and independent accounts from numerous other people that we had apprehended in the area who identified down to facial features, height, weight, clothing, and weapon description. And they had been robbed by these same people.
                                
HALL: Sheriff, let me ask you, though, because the article says that you've conceded that some of the early reports about the incident were confusing and sometimes incorrect. The incidents that they use is that a helicopter crew responding to the emergency mistakenly reported that it came under fire when it did not.

BABEU: Yes. That's correct. Oftentimes you'll find in a crisis literally when an officer-involved shooting – I myself was going at high speeds, code three to the scene when I heard one of my deputies was shot, was calling for help. We had 200 officers from all over that were responding to this call for help. And this is a remote area. It took me 45 minutes to get there. And so this incident is not something that is made up. It is something that literally happened.

HALL: But sheriff, I know that you've been a prominent supporter of the new law in your state which, of course, we know requires checking documents of people.

BABEU: Sure.

HALL: Who are reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally. So without a doubt are you – again, these folks who say this was staged or perhaps linking some of your beliefs to this, do you flat out –  I'm going to put it frankly. Do you say that they are lying, they are liars and are putting shameful things on the heads of your deputies who put their lives on the line?

BABEU: I can tell you every day, this is a dangerous job, and it's become more dangerous recently. And I'm not going to call people names. We have a job to do. We're honored and privileged to serve in this profession. Last month we had 64 pursuits. These are people who have failed to yield to law enforcement. And every single one of these pursuits, they weren't our citizens. They were illegal immigrants, smugglers of drugs or humans, and nearly all the time they're armed. So this isn't going to get better. It's going to get worse. And we're letting people know deep into the heart of Arizona, we have squads of paramilitary acting like soldiers and ambushing not only deputies but pose a great threat to our safety. And this has got to stop.

HALL: And how is your deputy, as I pointed out, he had a flesh wound, according to the article, how is he?

BABEU: He's doing well. In fact, he's back to work. Deputy Puroll is a 15-plus-year veteran. And he didn't want to talk to not only anybody in the media, he was restricted because of our investigation. Yet he's gung ho, very disciplined deputy. And I'm so proud of him and all of our law enforcement.

HALL: Well Sheriff, thank you very much for coming on and responding to some of those allegations that are out there and some of the theories, I should say.

BABEU: You bet.

HALL: Thank you very much.

BABEU: Yes.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC