On Wednesday, November 23, Department of Economic Security director Tim Jeffries and his leadership team were escorted out of their offices. At the same time, DPS SWAT team members were apparently deployed to secure a “cache” of weapons and ammunition.
Sometime between November 23 and November 30, Arizona Republic reporter, Craig Harris, “got done visiting with acting DES Director Henry Darwin.” According to an email to Bart Graves at DPS, dated November 30, at 4:40:09 p.m., from Harris, during that visit Darwin told him “that DPS had taken control of 50 handguns and about 80,000 rounds of ammunition at DES.”
Harris asked Graves: “I’m trying to get a gauge of the volume of 80,000 rounds of ammunition. Is that a large number, small number? Typically, how much ammunition does DPS use on an annual basis, and how much does your agency order. (sic) Also, how many officers do you have?
Graves forwarded Harris’ email to DES staff members Anni Foster, and Raul Garcia at 4:45 p.m. He simply wrote, “FYI.”
We know that the Governor’s Chief of Staff Kirk Adams had already been made aware almost immediately after the November 23 raid, that nothing was amiss at DES, and now we know that by December 1, Ducey’s spokesman knew too. At 8:24:00 a.m., on December 1, Foster forwarded an extensive response to Harris’ inquiry to Governor Doug Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. She wrote:
The email string appears to end there.
At 9:09 p.m., on November 30, a contextualized article by Harris was published in the online version of the Arizona Republic entitled “About 50 guns, 80,000 rounds of ammunition seized at Arizona DES on day director was ousted,” read:
State troopers confiscated about 50 handguns and 80,000 rounds of ammunition stored in the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s basement shortly after Director Tim Jeffries — who had expanded the agency’s armed police force — was forced to resign and escorted from the building, the interim director told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday.
Department of Public Safety officers obtained the firearms around noon the day before Thanksgiving, within an hour after Jeffries met with officials from Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office and was escorted from DES headquarters near the Capitol. The weapons were in a locked room.
Troopers then followed Jeffries to his Scottsdale home, where they confiscated a handgun he had purchased for himself with public funds, according to Interim DES Director Henry Darwin.
Darwin on Wednesday told The Republic that the Governor’s Office became aware of the cache of weapons around the time Jeffries was being terminated with five other DES employees closely tied to the ex-director. The Department of Public Safety will assume control of the DES police force, which had 44 members at the end of November.
Jeffries: Cache needed for protection
Jeffries, contacted by phone, said he was unaware of the specific number of guns and ammunition at DES, but he said it was not surprising considering the agency was looking to add more officers.
He said DES needed to provide protection to its employees and Arizonans whom the agency served, especially following a terrorist attack last year on a San Bernardino, Calif., social services center in which 14 people were killed.
“These jihadists in San Bernardino attacked a social service center for the developmentally disabled. They will go anywhere,” Jeffries said. “As a director, one of my highest priorities was to protect my people and my clients. I stand by that with pride.”
Jeffries added he carried a handgun because of death threats.
Harris’ article was updated, according to the azcentral.com website at 6:44 p.m., on December 1, yet it did not contain any of the information provided to Scarpinato.
At that point though, no reasonable explanation mattered. The narrative was set. The DPS response put the weapons and ammunition in context, and even went so far as to explain why DES Chief Law Enforcement Officer Charlie Loftus might have concerns about the future availability of ammunition citing this was the industry standard. DPS’s own internal experts validated Loftus’ concerns. “A responsible agency’s training section would carry at least two years of ammunition to offset delays in ordering of duty or practice ammo. AZDPS encountered this problem with duty ammunition FY14 having to wait 18 months to have duty orders filled,” noted DPS staff in the response to Harris’ question. Using DPS metric, DES had only enough ammunition to last until May of 2017. Six months.
The ADI reached out to Harris to see if he had received the explanation provided by the law enforcement experts at DPS, but he did not respond to our inquiry. There is no evidence in the records provided by DPS to the ADI, that Harris received the detailed explanation. If he did, he appears to have ignored it in the November 30 article and all of his subsequent articles.
Whether Harris was or was not a victim of Governor Ducey’s public relations machine and machinations, it is clear Loftus and Jeffries were.