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Thu, May 19

Ex-AZ prison boss faces felonies

Charles Ryan (AZ Department of Corrections photo)

Charles Ryan (AZ Department of Corrections photo)

PHOENIX – Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan has been indicted on two felony charges related to a January incident during which he discharged a firearm and pointed the weapon at responding Tempe police officers, county prosecutors announced Friday.

But the Maricopa County Attorney's office did not pursue the more serious charge police recommended, aggravated assault on a police officer. Instead, Ryan was indicted on one count of disorderly conduct involving weapons and one count of unlawful discharge of a weapon.

Both charges are the lowest-level felony but are classified in Ryan's case as dangerous offenses. If convicted, Ryan would face a mandatory prison term.

Ryan was arrested after a three-hour standoff at his home in Tempe on the evening of Jan. 6. Police were called to the house on a report that he had shot himself in the hand. It was later revealed by police that the hand injury was caused by a less-than-lethal projectile shot by police after Ryan pointed a handgun at officers. They say the projectile was revealed during surgery.

Ryan was also injured when he fired his gun before police arrived. He apparently suffered a cut to the forehead after a bullet hit a bathroom sink and sent a splinter of porcelain flying.

The Associated Press has been unable to contact Ryan, who does not have a listed telephone number and lives in a gated community. Court records for new charges that would show an attorney for Ryan are not yet available.

Interim County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a statement that Ryan's former profession, race or age did not factor into the decision to charge him.

“As a 30-year prosecutor, I understand the importance of focusing on the facts and evidence of each individual case when making charging decisions," Mitchell said in a statement. “A thorough review of this case was conducted by experienced prosecutors in this office.”

Police reports show Ryan had consumed a half bottle of tequila by the time officers arrived at his property. Police say Ryan slurred his words and was antagonistic to a police negotiator, did not know why officers were at his home or what happened to his injured hand.

Ryan also told police he didn’t remember pointing a gun at officers and acknowledged drinking tequila that evening, though he said he had just two shots.

Police reports show Ryan’s wife called police because of the cut to his forehead. Police also said Ryan told hospital staff that the cut was the result of an earlier fall, though the injury looked fresh.

Ryan was never booked into jail after eventually surrendering to police and being taken to the hospital. Police seized about 15 guns from his home.

Ryan, 72, retired as director of the Department of Corrections in 2019.

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