Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos will face a criminal investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office into his handling of Ricardo Garcia’s alleged assault of his female deputy.
In a letter to County Administrator Jan Lesher released Nov. 2nd, Attorney General Kris Mayes accepted the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ formal request and referred the investigation to Supervising Special Agent Kevin Spencer.
Sgt. Aaron Cross of the Pima County Deputy’s Organization said he was surprised at the Attorney General’s decision, but “grateful.”
“I was under the impression that they were asking for just an administrative investigation. It wasn't specifically mentioned to be criminal” he said.
“We welcome the investigation and will cooperate in any way that we can,” Nanos told AZPM in an email.
The chain of command in charge the night of the alleged assault of a female deputy by her superior Ricardo Garcia has faced intense scrutiny from the union and public for allegedly failing to intervene in the assault in December 2022. Cross said he hopes this step gives her some answers.
“The victim in this case is not asking for an internal investigation into Ricky Garcia. She's asking explicitly for an investigation into her chain of command and why they did nothing for 80 minutes. Accountability is getting some answers to her,” Cross said.
According to the interim complaint filed by the victim, after drinking at a holiday party, the female deputy needed to be helped into a guest bedroom to spend the night.
A witness deputy at the party then allegedly found Garcia had returned to the bedroom and locked the door three separate times. The witness deputy said they unlocked the door with a plastic utensil each time to tell Garcia to stop.
Garcia was arrested and fired shortly after by the Sheriff’s Department in January.
The history of the investigation goes back to a decision Nanos made in September to put an internal investigation into the incident on hold. In response, the Pima County Deputy’s Organization released a statement criticizing the sheriff’s decision and demanding answers for the alleged assault victim.
Sheriff Nanos delays deputy's request for investigation into command misconduct. Our statement: pic.twitter.com/HFMESqpvTn— Pima County Deputy's Organization (@AZPCDO) September 12, 2023
In September, the controversy over the sheriff's decision caught the attention of the Board of Supervisors. On Sept. 19, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to proceed with a statewide investigation. Supervisor Sharon Broson submitted the initial request to look into the matter, with Supervisors Steve Christy and Matt Heinz also voting in favor.
“The public is demanding this. The optics are terrible. They need to be clarified with some sort of explanation and transparency on the Sheriff’s department and the Sheriff’s part,” Christy said.
PCSD and Nanos maintain that administrative investigations traditionally happen after criminal investigations wrap up.
“In this instance and any other criminal cases, the department administrative inquiries follow the completion of criminal cases. With open civil claims, administrative inquiries also hold, as facts and witnesses must be preserved and available for the civil proceedings. Administrative efforts can interfere with court proceedings if engaged in prematurely,” PCSD wrote in a statement released after the Sept. 19 Board meeting.