Arrest Made In Tonto Basin Shooting

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A month after a Tonto Basin man reportedly shot his neighbor in the head over a long-standing dispute over property easements, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office arrested the man Monday.

Ronald Johns, 70, was arrested on charges of attempted first degree homicide, aggravated assault and misconduct involving weapons at his Tonto Basin home, in the 100 block of Desert Rose, by Gila County Sheriff’s Office deputies and narcotics task force members.

Sheriff’s deputies originally went to Johns’ home May 5 after Johns admitted he had shot twice at his neighbor, Loren Eaton, 52. Eaton was hit once in the back of the head. The second bullet struck one of Eaton’s horses. The horse had to be euthanized and Eaton was taken to a Valley hospital with serious injuries.

Sheriff’s Det. George Ratliff said at the time of the shooting, Eaton was walking down to feed his horses and Johns was jump-starting one of his vehicles in his driveway.

The shooting took place in an easement area that the men had been fighting over for several years, Ratliff said.

Ratliff said he could not go into the details of the shooting, but Eaton was hit once in the back of the head.

Although the men had fought verbally for years over the public right of way, this was the first time it had ever become physical, Ratliff said.

Eaton suffered severe injuries to his face, especially to his lower jaw where the bullet exited and has been unable to speak with investigators because his jaw was wired shut.

At the hospital, detectives asked Eaton yes and no questions and determined his side of the story.

Besides Eaton’s and Johns’ takes on the shooting, detectives gathered witness statements before making an arrest, Ratliff said.

“It was getting it all together,” he said. “We are not going on any one person’s side of the story.”

Johns is being held in the Gila County Jail in Payson until he is transported to the Globe jail. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.

“Eaton is recovering from his injuries but the healing process will be long and slow,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.

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