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Walmart employees held at gunpoint

TAYLOR — A man armed with a 9 mm pistol held Walmart employees at gunpoint in the early morning hours of Monday, July 27 until Snowflake-Taylor Police negotiators were able to take him into custody.

Courtesy photo/  

Members of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety and the White Mountain Special Response Team stand at the scene at the Taylor Walmart where a suspect allegedly threatened employees with a firearm.

A press release from STPD Chief Bobby Martin stated that Solomon Dominguez, 52, of Concho, was taken into custody at 6:57 a.m. by a Special Response Team (SRT) after store employees took away his pistol that he left on a counter.

Dominguez will initially be charged with several counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, disorderly conduct with a firearm, discharging a firearm at a structure, burglary and possible additional charges, according to Martin.

Dominguez was taken to Summit Healthcare after arrest for minor injuries he received during arrest.

No Walmart employees were injured during the incident.

Dominguez entered the store around 4:48 a.m. through the garden center before business hours as employees prepared to reopen the store.

Courtesy photo  

Pictured in the Walmart parking lot in Taylor and wrapped with crime scene tape is a blue SUV, allegedly belonging to the suspect.

Martin said they got two 911 calls from frightened employees, the second one reporting that they heard a gunshot outside the store before Dominguez entered brandishing the pistol and pointing it at employees.

Martin said when officers arrived on-scene they secured the building and then began phone negotiations with Dominguez to bring the situation to a cl ose after Dominguez reportedly demanded to speak to a negotiator.

That is when a Walmart employee who Martin called “very brave” and acting quickly was able to get the handgun Dominguez had left on a counter because he was distracted.

Courtesy of NCSO  

Solomon Dominguez

Once that employee got the handgun on the counter, he ushered himself and all other employees out through a fire exit and turned the loaded weapon over to law enforcement.

A that time the SRT arrived on-scene and after several minutes made entry into Walmart through a back door where they found Dominguez near the Service Center and took him into custody.

Agencies that came together to end the potentially deadly situation included the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Show Low Police Department, Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department, Navajo County MCAT, AZ DPS GIITEM, AZ DPS CID and the FBI.

Walmart remained closed all day Monday, July 27, as police conducted their investigation and gathered evidence.

“Our community was faced with something we do not see very often, and through extensive law enforcement partnerships and quick-thinking Walmart employees, we were able to bring this incident to a quick and peaceful resolution. I am extremely grateful that no Walmart staff or officers were injured during the course of this event. I would like to thank the members of the White Mountain Special Response Team for their quick and decisive actions to resolve this situation. Thank you to the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Show Low Police Department, Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department, Navajo County MCAT, AZ DPS GIITEM, AZ DPS CID as well as the FBI for their support and assistance to our community. This community thrives when we all work together for a common goal and I am re-assured once again of the strong bonds and brotherhood of our tightly knit law enforcement family and am grateful for the continued support we receive,” Martin said.

During a press conference on Monday, Martin said the incident was an eye opener for the community.

“This type of situation is something that a lot of times the communities of Snowflake-Taylor don’t think will happen here. This is a wake up call for us that I am grateful for the law enforcement we have on this mountain. It is a true brotherhood,” Martin said, adding that he knows he can count on everyone to come running when he needs help.

Dominguez was also arrested July 19 after he reportedly fired shots in the parking lot of the Country Store off Concho Highway.

An investigation into that incident revealed Solomon fired one round into the ground as he left the scene in his vehicle.

Dominguez later called into 9-1-1 multiple times stating someone tried to run him over and that is what caused him to shoot his pistol into the ground.

Dominguez was booked into the Navajo County Jail Annex July 19 on three counts of disorderly conduct involving a weapon, three counts of endangerment and one count of aggravated assault with a weapon.

He was released after seeing a judge.


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Apache, Navajo County Fairs canceled

HOLBROOK — The Apache and Navajo County Fair boards both made tough calls on Wednesday, voting to cancel the annual events scheduled for September 9-12 in St. Johns and September 16-19 in Holbrook, respectively.

Laura Singleton/The Independent  

Brooks, Kelton and Brayden are a young cowboy trio who were playing and practicing their rodeo moves in front of the grandstand during a 4-H event of a previous years’ Navajo County Fair.

This year would have been the 78th annual Apache County Fair and the 89th annual Navajo County Fair. In previous years, more than 25,000 people of all ages attend each day of the four-day event.

Both fair boards said it was a difficult decision to cancel the signature events. In the interest of public safety, fair organizers felt this was the best decision.

“It is with heavy hearts, and after many emotional discussions, that we have decided to cancel the Apache County Fair in September 2020,” states a press release issued on Wednesday by Josh and Annie Anderson on behalf of all the fair managers and organizers.

“When the carnival cancelled on July 15, we had to consider the overall impact to the Fair,” Navajo County Fair, Inc. Board President Mike Sample. “Then we met with Navajo County officials who preferred we not move forward with the event.”

“Losing the carnival was a big aspect but we took everything into consideration and the safety of the community is the absolute priority,” said Sample.

The silver lining

The Apache and Navajo County Jr. Livestock Shows and Auctions will take place. The Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H youth have dedicated themselves to an animal(s) the majority of the year in preparation for the show and auction.

“We cannot, and will not, give up on them when they have not given up on their animals,” says the Wednesday, July 29 press release from the Apache County Fair board. “We will honor their hard work in September.”

The Junior Livestock Shows and Auctions include steer, swine, sheep and goats. The small livestock show includes rabbits, poultry, geese and cavies (guinea pigs.)

It will be accomplished with a solid plan, making sure all COVID-19 precautions are in place including social distancing with contestants and the spectators and bidders.

“The Navajo County horse achievement show for the kids that have been in 4-H will also continue,” said Sample. “We are encouraging the public to please come and support these kids at the auction. Some of these kids have grown up showing and raising and this is their last year. They count on the auction to help them with college and it can determine if they pursue agricultural, veterinary or other related degrees.”

The organizers, the competitors and the fair boards will all be ready and at the top of their game for the 2021 county fairs. Each promises a spectacular plan for both county fairs in the White Mountains in 2021.

For updates and information:

Visit apachecountyfair.org or email apachecountyfair@gmail.com. Also Visit navajocountyfair.com. Both Fairs invite you to follow them on Facebook.


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One case of bubonic plague in Navajo County

HOLBROOK— The plague?

Really?

Like the Black Death?

Now? On top of everything else?

Well, yes. Navajo County last week did announce the discovery of a single case of the bubonic plague, the bacteria that killed half of the population of Europe between 1346 and 1353.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Honest.

www.cdc.gov 

The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas. Plague occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved. Many types of animals, such as rock squirrels, wood rats, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, mice, voles, and rabbits can be affected by plague. Wild carnivores can become infected by eating other infected animals.

Thank goodness for antibiotics, which have turned a gruesome death sentence into a painful but manageable disease — at least in the United States where people can readily get antibiotic therapy for the bacteria injected by fleas who feed on people after feeding on plague-infected rodents.

The plague continues to perk along in Arizona and New Mexico, living in pack rats, ground squirrels, gophers, rats and other furry critters. Now and then, it spreads to humans with some help from fleas.

Navajo County warned people not to handle rodents — even when they’re dead. The fleas on the body can easily hop to humans and spread the plague.

In this case, doctors discovered the infection in a 55 year-old man living in Navajo County — although they’re not saying just where he lives. Experts from the Pathogen & Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University are working with county public health officials to figure out how the man got infected. So far, they’ve found no other infections, according to assistant county manager Bryan Layton.

“They are pursuing all avenues to discover where it originated. Plague in burrowing animals was identified in the county in August of 2017, but we don’t have records of another human infection in recent history. Whether or not an individual is tested for the plague would depend on the individual assessment of their physician,” Layton said.

In the meantime, health officials want you to be careful.

“We encourage residents to use insect repellant when out in the environment, don’t let pets roam free and not to touch sick or dead wildlife,” said Layton.

The Federal Centers for Disease Control reports an average of seven plague cases in the U.S. annually, with almost all of those cases in nine western states — especially Arizona and New Mexico.

The plague came ashore in 1900 in rat-infested steamships mostly setting out from Asia. Plague spread from urban rats to rural rodents and became entrenched in the western U.S. long after it had been eradicated in the rest of the country. It tends to flare up from time to time — reaching 17 cases per year in 2006 and 2015.

The plague remains scattered throughout the world, with the worst problem in central Africa and Madagascar. All told, some 700 cases of the plague are discovered world-wide each year.

The plague bacteria – Yersinia pestis – has a complicated lifecycle involving rodents and their fleas, with the incidental spread to other species like dogs, cats and humans. Coyotes, cats and dogs can easily get infected by eating rats, mice, rabbits and squirrels. Their fleas can then spread the bacterium to humans. The rodents can often withstand infections without illness, which makes them a reservoir in which the bacterium can hide.

Mostly, the disease spreads through flea bites, but bodily fluids and even cough droplets can also spread the bacteria with devastating effects. The plague comes in three forms, bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. Early symptoms of the three forms include fever, headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, chills, weakness, abdominal pain and other symptoms that sound an awfully lot like COVID-19 — complicating early diagnosis for doctors. Septicemic and pneumonic plague provoke fewer early symptoms, beyond swollen lymph glands.

Left untreated, the plague spreads more slowly but does far more damage than COVID-19. It spreads through the lymphatic system, the staging ground for the immune system. That might account for its terrible death rate. Fortunately, common antibiotics can generally tame an infection quickly – depending on how early it is caught . Out of 3,200 known cases between 2010 and 2015, the plague accounted for 584 deaths world-wide.

The emergence of this single local case of the plague even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic underscores how far we’ve come since the centuries when human populations were wracked by lethal pandemic almost routinely.

The plague apparently originated in Asia and for centuries caused repeated, lethal, global outbreaks. The Black Death killed an estimated 50 million people, wiping out up to 60% of the European population. At the time, people had no idea the disease was mostly spread by the fleas of rats. Another epidemics devastated the eastern Roman Empire in the Sixth Century CE and a third raged through China, Mongolia and Indian in 1855.

So avoid handling rodents – and don’t let the cat or dog go after the mice and ground squirrels.

Other than that, give thanks COVID-19’s death rate is something like 1% instead of 90%.

Turns out, even with a pandemic – there’s always a bright side.


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Wynn cuts off ankle bracelet, disappears

PHOENIX—Alpine property owner and convicted tax evader Kevin Scott Wynn did not appear at his sentencing on Monday in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.

Facebook photo  

Kevin Scott Wynn

The hearing was the third time his sentencing had been re-set after a jury found him guilty of tax-related charges on Dec. 6, 2019. In a July 20 filing with the court, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona reported that Wynn cut off his ankle bracelet monitoring device and withdrew $1.25 million from his business bank account.

The jury convicted Wynn of one count of tax evasion, a felony, and three counts of failing to a file tax return, all misdemeanors. The indictment charged that “Starting in 1995, Kevin Scott Wynn determined to no longer file personal income taxes, or to pay taxes on his personal income to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). Wynn kept the money for himself and spent it on his personal lifestyle.” The indictment stated that Wynn has worked in the construction industry.

The trial lasted three days, and each side has since made their recommendations to the court about his sentence, which is governed by federal sentencing guidelines. Guidelines start at a base number of months in prison depending on the crime committed, then moves up or down in number of months depending on the particular circumstances of the defendant and the crime.

For example, the government believes the base number of months that the one felony Wynn was found guilty of, tax evasion, should be 37 months in prison, “To deter other tax scofflaws,” and to convince Wynn “to start complying with the obligations of all those who live and work in America ...” they wrote.

However, the government told the court that if Wynn pays up before sentencing the $765,429.22 which they believe he owes, the prosecutors would recommend only 30 months in prison. That recommendation is out the window at this point.

In his past filing, Wynn said that he is “very remorseful and embarrassed” about the whole thing and he therefore deserves leniency. The defense wants a “non-custodial sentence of probation,” according to its memorandum, or at worst, confinement at home with work-release. Wynn rightly claims that “the Court should consider Kevin’s individual history and characteristics.”

In this case, the defense claims that Wynn still struggles with the death of his 21-year old son, Trevor, who died in a 2008 car wreck. Wynn also produced many letters from well wishers calling Wynn a generous person who has helped out family and friends consistently through his working career.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Restaino and James R. Knapp wrote that regarding Wynn’s generosity to others, that the government doesn’t doubt Wynn’s “ability to lend support to friends and family in down times,” but claim that Wynn “only had the ability to provide financial support because he was ripping off the government to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per year.” The prosecutors also remind the judge about Wynn’s “concerted efforts to structure his business activities in a way to conceal assets from the IRS.” Wynn put the 48-foot yacht, for example, “in his brother’s name,” they urge, but paid $3,000 per month on the yacht’s maintenance.

A family member of Wynn wrote to The Independent on July 20, and gloomily predicted that Wynn would “skate” on the prison time. The writer said that “Kevin is a bully and a narcissist” with an “ability to buy himself out of problems.” But in its Updated Sentencing Memorandum filed last week, the prosecutors now want 57 months in prison.

They argue that by not showing up for his sentencing, cutting off his ankle bracelet and withdrawing money from “a cash piggy bank,” Wynn now is in “obstructive conduct” territory and that changes everything.

Court records show that the judge did not issue a warrant for Wynn’s arrest; rather the sentencing was re-set to Sept. 29. It is unknown if Wynn will appear, if so he may already be in custody of the U.S. Marshalls.


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Deuces Wild Rodeo cancels amid COVID-19 concerns

SHOW LOW – The rodeo stands and livestock chutes will be empty this year.

Laura Singleton/The Independent  

The White Mountain Vacation Village Arena, (Culvers Village Arena), has been the home of the Deuces Wild Rodeo for 15 years.

The Deuces Wild Rodeo at Culver’s Village Arena in Show Low, originally scheduled for the 4th of July, has been officially cancelled for 2020. This summer will be without cowboys, cowgirls and all that goes along with the small-town rodeo.

Laura Singleton/The Independent  

Some members of the rodeo committee will move forward in the search to find another venue for the Deuces Wild Rodeo. The long-running event hosts around 300 contestants and up to 3,000 spectators every year in the Village Arena in Show Low.

Sanctioned by the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association (GCPRA), the Deuces Wild Rodeo brings in professional rodeo competitors from across Arizona, as well as California, Colorado, New Mexico and even Nevada.

Over 300 contestants participate each year, drawing anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 spectators to the grounds in a single day.

“The stands are always packed and usually become standing room only,” said Deuces Wild Rodeo Committee board president Sandy Morgan.

The 12-person Deuces Wild Rodeo Committee had voted to move the rodeo forward to September until concerns about large crowds and the possibility of spreading coronavirus forced complete cancelation.

“We had tentatively postponed the rodeo until Labor Day weekend,” said Morgan. “After much discussion, studying the state COVID-19 guidelines and weighing the pros and cons against the threat to public health, we decided that the event should be canceled for this year.”

The roughly 16-acre property was purchased by Steve Chlupsa early this year. He is the owner and operator of the Payson and Show Low Culver’s restaurants.

“We’re sad that the rodeo isn’t able to go on because the Show Low Culver’s was a sponsor,” said Chlupsa. “There was also going to be a roping event the week prior to to rodeo which we also planned to support.”

Chlupsa tried to allow the use of the arena this year but the global health emergency is much more important to organizers.

“Steve Chlupsa had offered us the use of the arena one last time (in 2020) before the property changes its look to something new,” said Morgan. “We appreciate his generosity as well, but feel that the present COVID-19 threat necessitates this decision.”

“We were all looking forward to supporting the rodeo and roping competitions in the future,” said Chlupsa. “I hope to create new opportunities for the community.”

“It’s very sad the loss of our rodeo and the rodeo grounds and I remember growing up in Show Low and couldn’t wait until the rodeo,” said Show Low City Councilman and mayoral candidate John Leech Jr. “It’s part if our heritage.”

Deuces Wild future

Some members of the Show Low Rodeo Committee will move forward in the search to find a new venue for the Deuces Wild Rodeo. They will also explore fundraising opportunities to save the long-standing family-friendly event.

“We encourage anyone interested in helping with this project to watch for further information on joining this new group,” said Morgan. “After 15 years of presenting this popular rodeo, we hate to see the community lose this part of our western heritage.”

“We need to continue moving forward on a new location for a rodeo grounds,” said Leech Jr. “It would be awesome for something possibly in an area out by the race track, but we need some funding to make it happen. I hate to see it go away.”

“Our City knows how important rodeos are in our town and mountain not just for our residents but for tourists,” said Leech Jr. “I support the formation of a local committee to help the city find ideas on how to continue to move forward in support of this endeavor.”

On behalf of the Rodeo Committee, Morgan said they truly appreciate Victoria McCarty of McCarty Enterprises for letting them use the Village Arena for all these years.

“It was not a decision easily made, as this would have been our 15th year presenting this popular event — and the last at the Village Arena,” said Morgan.

Despite the rodeo cancellation, the 2020 Deuce’s Wild Rodeo Queens will be making appearances in the White Mountains and around the state at other rodeos. The royalty was selected prior to the decision to cancel this year’s event.

“Keep a look out for them, as they represent our rodeo and our community,” said Morgan. “Finally, we thank the community, our sponsors, and our volunteers who have helped with this event over the past 15 years.”

“When you support rodeo, you support America,” said Morgan on behalf of the the Deuces Wild Rodeo Committee.

Visit http://www.deuceswildrodeo.us/ for more information and committee announcements.


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