Arizona National Guardsmen accused of stalking homeless in 30 to 35 raids

Governor orders probe after newspaper reports widespread misconduct
2012-10-16T00:00:00Z 2012-10-16T11:07:22Z Arizona National Guardsmen accused of stalking homeless in 30 to 35 raidsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - A recruiter for the Arizona Army National Guard is accused of leading 30 to 35 nighttime raids through north Phoenix to harass homeless people.

The Arizona Republic reported that at least a dozen Guard members and recruits took part in the raids, while others looked away.

National Guard investigators found that noncommissioned officers engaged in hunting the homeless with paintball guns.

Witnesses testified they had heard the recruiter in question, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Amerson, describe the raids, but claimed to believe the tales were fabricated.

Amerson was suspended after young soldiers confirmed the raids were real.

Amerson declined to be interviewed and told the newspaper, "There was nothing behind any of that."

The Republic has reported that interviews with military officers and a review of records show misbehavior by Army National Guard members in the past decade included sexual abuse, enlistment improprieties, forgery, firearms violations, embezzlement and assaults.

Much of the wrongdoing was not previously disclosed and was concentrated among military recruiters.

National Guard investigators found that noncommissioned officers engaged in sexual misconduct, collected improper recruiting fees, forged documents and committed offenses such as hunting the homeless with paintball guns.

Investigators asserted that National Guard commanders didn't hold subordinates accountable.

Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered an investigation after the Republic shared its findings with her.

Staff Sgt. Chad Wille, a recruiter who complained about one raid and started talking with young enlistees, learned that a 17-year-old private admitted taking part in missions targeting the homeless. A 17-year-old may sign up as a recruit with a parent's signature.

The teenager said she and other female cadets were pressured by Amerson to cruise with him and flash their breasts at indigents, who were induced to dance, sing or show their own bosoms for money.

In one case, the private said, Amerson offered a homeless woman $10 to expose her breasts, refused to pay, then screeched away as the lady grabbed onto the recruiting vehicle's passenger window.

"The female was pulled along and then spun off the car, landing on the ground," notes an investigative report. "(The soldier) did not know if the female was hurt because they did not stop."

Wille took the cadet to a supervisor, where the allegations were repeated. More soldiers were interrogated. Some received phone calls from colleagues as they were being interviewed, warning them to lie or remain silent, according to military records.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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