Saturday Squabble Only Major Blemish On Rodeo Weekend


A late-night quarrel at the Rumsey Park playground led to the arrest of two Payson residents Saturday night, one of the only blemishes on an otherwise quiet rodeo weekend.

A 16-year-old boy was charged with disorderly conduct, while his 20-year-old accomplice, Jason Ryan Thornton, was charged with impersonating a police officer, officials said.

"It was reported by one of the private security personnel at the rodeo grounds that a man with a weapon was wandering around the park," said Payson Police Lt. Don Engler. That call, reported around 10 p.m., was followed by a broadcast description of two male suspects.

In the meantime, officers located one of the victims, and learned what happened.

"It was determined that the two suspects were in the playground area of Rumsey Park," Engler said. "They got into an argument between themselves, and with another group of people there. (Thornton) told the group that if there was a fight, or any problems, that he was a police officer and he would write them a ticket for the offense."

The argument apparently continued, officers said, which ended abruptly when the teen-ager produced what appeared to witnesses to be a .45-caliber handgun. With the weapon added to the mix, the argument broke up, and while some of the witnesses looked for security, the suspects took off running toward McLane Road.

"A short time later, Officer (Matt) Van Camp located the suspects on south McLane," the lieutenant said. "The weapon was observed on the 20-year-old, and therefore they were detained at gunpoint. Upon inspection, the weapon was actually a BB gun, painted to look more realistic, more like a handgun."

Suspects arrested

The two suspects were arrested. Thornton was booked into Gila County jail in Payson, and after a court appearance the next morning, was released on his own recognizance. The teen-ager was transferred to the juvenile detention center in Globe.

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