Sheriff Joe Arpaio has warned civilians on armed patrols in remote desert terrain that they could end up with “30 rounds” fired into them by his deputies.
Arpaio’s comments came Tuesday after an Arizona Minuteman border-watch movement was arrested for pointing a gun at a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy that he mistook for a drug smuggler.
According to court records, the deputy and his partner stopped their vehicle 70 miles southwest of Phoenix near a known drug-trafficking corridor in the desert. They flashed their headlights and honked their horn, a common practice to draw drug smugglers from their hiding spots who think the car is a transfer for their narcotics load.
The deputies then emerged in camouflage, though both were clearly marked with sheriff badges, and followed fresh footprints.
Richard Malley suddenly emerged from the darkness with his rifle and yelled commands at the sheriffs.
When one sheriff identified himself and told Malley to drop his weapon, the 43-year-old refused.
“You aren’t taking my weapons,” Malley replied.
Malley was reportedly armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a .45 caliber handgun and a knife.
Another deputy arrived and eventually arrested Malley for aggravated assault. He was released on $10,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on August 26.
Arpaio, who has promised there would be chaos on the borders if citizens disguised themselves as deputies took the law “into their own hands”, said Malley is lucky he wasn’t shot.
"I have to commend my deputy for not killing this person,” Arpaio said, “which easily could have happened.”