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Sat, Dec. 04

Briefs : Explosion, fire, explosion in home not accidental

TEMPE – An explosion and fire in a Tempe house where two women were found dead wasn't accidental, but circumstances of the incident remain unclear, city officials announced Friday.

Investigators determined that the explosion occurred early Monday morning when vapors from unknown accelerants came into contact with “an ignition source," a city statement said.

The investigation is in its early stages but investigators ruled out natural gas as causing the explosion and “can confirm that the cause of fire was not accidental," the statement said. "This can be confirmed as an isolated incident."

The statement did not identify the ignition source and said items from the scene were sent to a lab for testing.

A mother and her adult daughter lived in the home but officials said the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office hadn't yet confirmed their identities.

Causes of death also remain pending.

Surveillance video didn't show anybody else at the home so there was no immediate indication of involvement by another person and there was no indication of a possible motive, officials said during a news conference. “What we can answer right now is that it was not accidental," said Assistant Fire Marshal David Fabok.

Fire crews arriving at the fire at about 1:30 a.m. found the one-story home fully engulfed.

Glendale police investigating after man is struck by a train

GLENDALE – A man has been severely injured after being hit by a train in Glendale, according to authorities.

Police said the man was struck around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday and was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Authorities haven’t identified the man, but they said he’s in his 20s.

Police said the man was walking along the tracks when an apparatus on the side of the train struck him somewhere on his body. The train reportedly was moving at less than 20 mph when the man was hit.

Man jailed on other charges after attack kills deputy

PHOENIX – A man who was the subject of a manhunt in the fatal beating of a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy has been released from a hospital and booked into jail on charges stemming from earlier incidents.

Clinton Hurley, 30, was booked into the Pinal County jail in Florence and appeared remotely Wednesday before a Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner. Hurley wasn’t eligible for release pending trial because he’s accused of violating probation, a court document said.

Hurley was hospitalized late Saturday after being shot and wounded during an encounter with a Tonopah homeowner.

He was sought much of Saturday after Deputy Juan Ruiz was attacked and left unconscious while processing Hurley at a sheriff’s substation. Hurley fled in the deputy’s patrol vehicle, Sheriff Paul Penzone said Saturday.

Ruiz died Monday after being removed from life support. Hurley was on probation from a 2012 case in which he served time in prison after pleading guilty to attempted child molestation, according to court and prison records, and he is also charged with theft of means of transportation in a May incident.

Prosecutors didn’t immediately charge Hurley in the attack on Ruiz, County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said Thursday.

Hurley is represented by a lawyer for the county Office of the Legal Defender. A call for comment on behalf of Hurley was referred to a supervisor, Rhonda O’Neal, who did not immediately call back.

Tempe Union to phase out having police officers on campuses

TEMPE – Another major Phoenix-area high school district has decided to stop having police officers assigned to its schools.

The Tempe Union High School District’ s board voted 3-2 Wednesday night to have the Phoenix and Tempe police departments phase out assigning full-time school resource officers to the 14,000-student district’s campuses by next August.

Tempe Union’s decision follows Phoenix Union High School District’s similar move last year during unrest following the death of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

Some speakers addressing the Tempe Union board wanted to keep officers at schools while others wanted them replaced with counselors and psychologists.

Tempe Police Chief Jeff Glover said resource officers are of vital importance for the safety of students.

“The school SRO program has literally saved lives,” he said. “Many lives within the schools. The students are there with our school resource officers because our SROs are there building relationships with them.”

District officials cited research by the U.S. Dept. of Education which found that Black students in the district are three times more likely to be referred to law enforcement than white students, KSAZ-TV reported. Tempe Union has six comprehensive high schools and one non-traditional school.

Tucson school district employee is indicted on fraud charges

TUCSON – An Arizona grand jury has indicted a longtime school district employee in Tucson on fraud charges. Prosecutors said Joan Katz was accused of multiple felony charges of fraudulent schemes and other charges.

Katz is a former Parents as Teachers Program coordinator for the Sunnyside Unified School District.

She allegedly hired her daughter’s company without obtaining competitive bids and without disclosing her conflict of interest. Similarly, Katz allegedly hired another district employee’s company without obtaining competitive bids.

After payment was sent to both companies, the indictment alleges that Katz submitted false documents to cover up the lack of a competitive bidding process for both projects.

Katz was arraigned on the charges in Pima County Superior Court last Friday.

It was unclear Wednesday if Katz has a lawyer yet who can speak on her behalf.

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