An hour-long traffic backup last Saturday going in and out of Tombstone on State Route 80 wasn’t the result of an accident or a parade but rather a high-risk takedown by a multi-agency task force targeting members of an outlaw motorcycle gang, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has confirmed.
“On October 9th and October 10th, GITTEM conducted an enforcement detail in connection with a motorcycle gang that was involved in a ride to Tombstone from Tucson,” said DPS spokesman Bart Graves, who noted GITTEM stands for Gang & Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission.
Graves declined to identify which motorcycle gang was involved.
It took nearly one hour for traffic on SR80 to get back to normal late Saturday morning after the taskforce arrested former area resident Donald Lopez, whose lengthy criminal record in Cochise County dates to 1992.
Lopez, 46, has served at least eight state prison terms, most recently an 18-month sentence he completed in February for an attempted aggravated assault incident in Pima County. He was booked into the Cochise County jail on Saturday by GITTEM for four warrants out of the Huachuca City Municipal Court.
Despite his criminal history and outstanding warrants, a judge allowed Lopez to leave the jail Sunday morning with a promise to appear before Judge Keith Barth at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Huachuca City court.
According to Graves, the GITTEM taskforce arrested Christopher Phillips on Oct. 9 in connection to the same operation. Phillips, 31, was booked into the Pima County jail on a felony charge of possession of a dangerous drug as well as a probation violation warrant stemming from a January conviction in Pima County for solicitation to commit burglary.
Public records show Phillips is also pending trial in Maricopa County Superior Court on drug charges from January 2019. A warrant was issued in that case in August 2020 when Phillips failed to appear in court.
Graves said charges are also pending against a third man, age 36, in connection to the GITTEM operation. That man’s name has not been released.