A man wanted in connection with two slayings in Tucson in 2004 was arrested in Atlanta on Thursday by U.S. marshals who had recently learned he had been using his brother’s name to evade capture.
Damion Smith, 38, is being held in Atlanta awaiting extradition to Tucson, Sgt. Pete Dugan, a Tucson Police department spokesman, said in a news release. He is facing two first-degree murder charges here.
On June 7, 2004, police went to an apartment in the 8000 block of East Lakeside Drive and found Alex Grijalva, 35, dead from beating injuries, the release said.
Detectives believed the killing stemmed from a drug transaction, as neither Grijalva nor Smith lived in the apartment complex, in the area of East Golf Links and South Pantano roads, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.
At the time of Grijalva’s death, police said it was unclear whether he knew Smith. Detectives interviewed relatives and associates of the victim but wouldn’t say precisely what information led detectives to suspect Smith, Star archives show.
On Dec. 27, 2004, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for first-degree murder but were unable to locate Smith, saying he had ties to the Tucson area, as well as New York, Maryland and Florida, according to previous reporting by the Star.
Four days later, on Dec. 31, a person called 911 to report a stabbing victim running in the 6400 block of East Golf Links Road, just north of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Star archives show.
The victim, later identified as Richard Vega, 24, called his father who picked him up and flagged down a police officer. Vega later died at a hospital, according to previous reporting by the Star.
Detectives learned Vega had been stabbed during a fight with Smith and obtained a second arrest warrant for his arrest, according to the release.
Detectives continued to search for Smith over the years, but leads began to fade. In October, a U.S. Marshals Service violent offender task force began assisting Tucson police with the investigation and obtained an arrest warrant on the grounds of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, the release said.
With assistance from federal authorities in New York and New Jersey, the investigation revealed that Smith might be living under the name of his brother, Steven Smith, who has been in federal prison since 1993.
The Marshals Service in Arizona discovered that Damion Smith had been stopped for speeding by Georgia law enforcement in April, but used his brother’s name to avoid apprehension, the release said.
Body-camera footage from the traffic stop was used to confirm Smith’s identity and U.S. marshals in Atlanta were able to locate and arrest Smith, who was found at a north Atlanta hotel.
“The partnership between the Tucson Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service sends a clear message to fugitives that city, county and state lines will not limit the reach of law enforcement and our goal of bringing violent criminals to justice,” Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said in the release. “This arrest will hopefully bring some needed closure to the families affected by the actions of Damion Smith.”