A Pinal sheriff's deputy wounded in a desert gunbattle with suspected drug smugglers said the April incident began when a man with an AK-47 came out of the bushes and fired at him, according to an interview transcript released Wednesday.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety crime scene report, also released this week, shows investigators found more than two dozen bullet casings at the scene, about three miles south of Interstate 8 west of Casa Grande.
In a June 1 interview with a Pinal County sheriff's sergeant and a detective, Deputy Louie Puroll said he was hit once when the man fired at him with the AK-47 rifle in the April 30 shooting.
Puroll told detectives he was on a hill following a group of six men, five of whom he saw carrying heavy backpacks, according to the interview transcript. He said he had parked his car and hiked to the top of a hill in the area of a commonly used smuggling trail.
After the man emerged from the brush, he said he "immediately raised his county-issued rifle and returned fire," about 10 rounds, the document states. As soon as he fired, the man fell and stopped firing at him, Puroll said.
Puroll tried to find cover behind bushes and began receiving gunfire from his right, and fired shots in that direction with his rifle. He fired about 20 rounds with his rifle and about 16 rounds from his handgun, he said.
He told the interviewing officers he was unable to see the shooters, but said they were within 25 yards of him.
When the gunfire stopped, he said he then called dispatchers to tell them he had been shot and needed backup.
A helicopter arrived and flew him to a hospital. Puroll, 53, was treated for superficial wounds and released.
The transcript was released by Pinal County Sheriff's Office along with dozens of pages of supplemental narratives regarding the incident. Pinal County's criminal and internal-affairs unit conducted a full investigation, and that report is due out in the next couple of weeks, said sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Tamatha Villar.
The DPS report does not draw any conclusions about the shooting but rather provides information about the crime scene.
The lead DPS investigator, Detective Jeff Brown, reported that while Mesa police SWAT team was providing security around the shooting scene the day after, there was no crime-scene tape and no crime-scene log indicating who had entered the area.
Investigators collected 78 items for evidence, the report shows. In addition to bullet casings, they found three AK-47 rifle magazines with 27-28 cartridges, one empty AK-47 rifle magazine and one empty AR-15 rifle magazine, the report shows.
They also found a Glock 22 handgun, batteries and several backpacks with food, binoculars, sunglasses and a small cooking stove.
The DPS report shows no marijuana bundles were found.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org