Man Tries To Rob Tribal Market

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A man was arrested after trying to rob the Tonto Apache Market, Friday afternoon.

Gregory Salazar, 19, of Gilbert, allegedly held a stick in his sweatshirt pocket and demanded money from the clerk, Payson Police Sgt. Donny Garvin said.

"We responded to what was dispatched as a burglary in progress and it turned out to be an armed robbery in progress," Garvin said.

As Salazar was pointing the hidden stick at the clerk, Department of Public Safety Officer Bill Murphy was on scene already, assisting a motorist.

"Officer Murphy was helping a broken-down motorist and he heard the call come out on his scanner," Garvin said. "He started to monitor the front of the store. As officers started to respond, he saw the suspect come out and detained him without incident."

"I happened to be at the right place at the right time," Murphy said. "I was transporting a 16-year-old kid that had run out of gas coming up from Rye. Just as I pulled into the pumps, I heard the call come out on my scanner."

Murphy said he realized that there was a robbery in progress.

"Scanning the interior of the establishment, I saw a young man wearing a yellow sweatshirt and on the right side he was simulating having a weapon," Murphy said. "He backed out and that's when I came up on him and took him down."

Murphy said when he patted the man down, he found that a piece of wood had been used to simulate the gun.

Because the incident took place on the Tonto Apache reservation, it is the federal government that charges the offender and prosecutes the case.

A crime committed on a reservation is a federal offense, Garvin said.

"Since the offense occurred on a reservation, which is a sovereign nation, it's a felony and we had to call federal officers," Garvin said.

Payson police took custody of Salazar and took him to the jail.

Although Salazar used a stick, Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said it is considered a simulated weapon in the state statutes.

"We contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) investigator up in Whiteriver," Engler said. "We turned it over to them due to the fact it is considered a felony crime and the victim in the case was the Tonto Apache tribe -- a Native American."

Despite the facts in the case, the federal government decided not to pursue the case, Engler said.

"The BIA investigator spoke with a federal prosecutor and the prosecutor declined the case," Engler said. "We then took the case back and had to charge him with disorderly conduct in state court."

Engler said it is a complicated jurisdictional issue and that, because the victim of the armed robbery is considered Native American, only the federal government could charge Salazar with armed robbery.

"The tribe can't prosecute him in their court because he is non-Native American," Engler said.

"We had to find a charge that would fit his behavior and had a non-Native American victim -- the only one we could use was disorderly conduct."

Salazar was charged with the lesser offense, but the details of the alleged attempted armed robbery is admissible in court, Engler said.

"It was the only charge we could give him," Engler said. "It's a shame because his intent was armed robbery."

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