Today, Pima County Sheriff’s Department Chief of Staff Bradley Gagnepain will be laid to rest, but questions surrounding his death will not. In fact, since his death on Sunday night, questions are all anyone has due to the fact that the Pima County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) will not respond to questions by the public or the press.
What is known is that for the first time in PCSO’s history, personnel and resources will be expended for a lavish memorial service for an officer who committed suicide while off duty. Chief Gagnepain reportedly committed suicide at a neighbor’s home on Father’s Day.
According to sources, an honor guard of 10 PCSO personnel, being paid time-and-a-half, will man the memorial services.
Chief Gagnepain’s death came at a time when PCSO personnel are under increasing pressure due to an FBI investigation into illegal use of funds, among other matters.
It was the investigation into Gagnepain’s death however that is generating questions. Sources report that rather than turn the investigation over to another agency, Sheriff Nanos insisted that the unusual death be handled by PCSO. Both Nanos, and his right-hand-man, Chris Radtke, prevented investigators from reviewing items of interest including one cellphone controlled by Chief Gagnepain, and papers in a manila envelope on a front seat of his vehicle. Sources also report that the crime scene logs cannot be found.
On Friday, Sergeant Terry Staten, who was recruited by PCSO deputies to challenge Nanos in the upcoming election, appeared on the James T. Harris radio show (KQTH 104.1 FM) in response to the swirling controversy. Harris said he had invited Staten on the show in an effort to help the public understand how the matter should have been appropriately handled.
Staten, a long-time veteran of the force, told Harris, “I hear some of the same rumors that you have probably heard as far as Sheriff Nanos showing up on scene, and Deputy Chief Radtke showing up on scene. These things concern me.” Staten paused and proceeded with emphasis, “I feel bad for the family of Mr. Gagnepain. A suicide has a significant mental and emotional impact on families, and friends. This is not a good thing for them to be going through, but the fact is; you have three people that are under investigation by the FBI. One decides to take his own life – not in his own house – and you have the other named in the allegations showing up on scene and controlling the entire scene rather than being there for the family. And then not turning the scene over to another agency to investigate.”
According to experts, had Gagnepain’s death occurred in his own home, the matter could have been immediately investigated as a suicide. However, since it occurred in a neighbor’s garage, it should have been initially investigated as a homicide.
Harris told Staten that he had heard that the crime scene logs did not reflect the presence of Nanos and Radtke. Staten said that he could not confirm those rumors, but had heard them as well.
Staten said, “All I’ve been told is obviously from other people who have seen and heard things that took place that day. I have been cut from the heard,” said Staten referring to the fact he has been placed on administrative leave by Nanos in retaliation for his decision to challenge him in the election.
Unlike Nanos, who enjoys the support of a handful in PCSO leadership, Staten has the support of the deputies. In fact, the deputies’ union has endorsed Staten, leading to Nanos’ apparent bitterness.
“These are very serious things that we are hearing. This just sounds very, very bad,” Harris stated. “How come other agencies are not being invited in to investigate? Will other agencies eventually be brought in to investigate?” Staten replied, “I don’t know. I think it’s probably too late now.”
Staten explained that he was unaware if PCSO had maintained the scene and evidence. “Maybe they still have the evidence – maybe they don’t. I don’t know. I don’t know the circumstances as to why, and these are the questions that a lot of people are asking me. Just like you just asked me; why was there not another agency brought into this? I have no idea, but if the general public is asking me that same question then maybe someone else should ask them those questions.”
Efforts by the ADI to secure copies of investigation reports have been unsuccessful.
“When I would become Sheriff, and hopefully this will never happen while I’m Sheriff, but immediately it would be sealed off,” said Staten referring to the scene. “And another agency invited in to do the investigation for us. It has to look – it has to be one of those investigations that we stay neutral – out of it – and let the other agencies investigate.”
“I am not saying there was anything there to find,” said Staten adamantly, “but those questions can never be answered now.”
“I have questions, and the general public has questions,” said Staten. “Not only do I, but I’m sure a lot of people, who are in this Department, have the same questions.”
Those questions are 1) why was the investigation handled the way it was handled, 2) why did the Sheriff and Chief Deputy have to come in and control of the scene, and 3) why was the investigation not handed over immediately to another agency?
As the ADI reported on Monday, in an email to employees on Monday, Nanos wrote, “We lost one of the great leaders and visionaries in our department’s history. Brad Gagnepain was a behind the scenes leader, the man behind the curtain, who had his fingerprints on so many of the successful programs and events in our department. Although, as a true leader, he took credit for none.”
Services will be held today Saturday, June 25th at 10am, Tucson Hilton East 7600 E. Broadway. The public is welcome to attend.