A jury Wednesday acquitted an Eagar man of attempting to murder three Gila County Sheriff’s Office deputies last year during a high-speed chase from Globe to Roosevelt Lake.
Still, Gabriel R. “Gaby” Jaramillo, 58, will likely spend several years in prison after the jury convicted him of two lesser charges — unlawful flight and aggravated assault on an officer for the same incident.
He also will likely face separate murder charges in connection with the death of a co-worker, whose truck he was driving when he fled from Gila County sheriff’s deputies here.
During the four-day trial, the Gila County Attorney’s Office argued Jaramillo had attempted to kill GCSO deputies Thoreina Hensley, Thor Nudson and Sgt. John France with a gun and with his car during the chase.
Jaramillo nearly struck Nudson head-on on the Indian Point boat ramp at Roosevelt Lake and officers testified they saw a muzzle flash as he drove past them at a different point in the chase.
The jury found Jaramillo guilty of assaulting Nudson, but acquitted him on all other charges relating to the other deputies.
Jaramillo’s defense team argued that prosecutors presented no evidence Jaramillo fired a shot and police never found a gun.
Moreover, the defense called a deputy to the stand who testified that France smelled of alcohol and was perhaps impaired before he shot at the fleeing Jaramillo.
France was drinking at home when he was called in for the manhunt. An internal investigation by the sheriff’s office later concluded France had acted properly during the search and the shoot-out, but that he should have told his supervisor he had been drinking off-duty before he was called in for the search.
Due to evidentiary rulings, the jury did not see several pieces of evidence. Those include evidence of gun powder residue inside the truck Jaramillo was driving. The judge denied the state’s request to submit that evidence, citing late disclosure of the residue test results.
The state was also not allowed to discuss that Jaramillo was wanted in connection with a murder in Apache County at the time of the chase.
In addition, the defense objected to the introduction of a disciplinary letter written by GCSO Lt. Tim Scott to Sgt. John France addressing his drinking that night.
Gila County Chief Deputy Shawn Fuller called 10 witnesses during the trial. Each offered his or her account of the terrifying night.
The chase started in Globe after officers attempted to pull Jaramillo over for questioning.
An Eagar police detective tracking Jaramillo recognized the truck he was driving near the intersection of Miami Avenue and Live Oak Street as belonging to Steven Long, 47, also of Eagar, whose body mushroom hunters had found in the woods.
Police wanted to question Jaramillo in connection with Long’s death. The officers believed Jaramillo might have had an AK-47 assault rifle in his possession.
Numerous officers testified that Jaramillo fled from police at speeds topping 100 miles an hour as he drove erratically toward Tonto Basin.
Jaramillo’s attorney Anna Ortiz called just two witnesses, deputies Russell Toumberlin and Leonard Kerszykowski.
Kerszykowski told the jury he had smelled alcohol on France’s breath and detected some level of impairment after France fired a barrage of bullets at Jaramillo’s truck.
France’s shots are believed to have ultimately disabled Jaramillo’s truck, forcing Jaramillo to flee into the desert.
Jaramillo hid in the desert for five days before surrendering.
A day after the incident, Kerszykowski asked Lt. Tim Scott about France’s impairment, which led to an internal investigation.
France admitted to Scott he’d had approximately two drinks while off duty at home. When the call came out for assistance, France felt he was fit for duty.
Scott later determined France was not drunk and his “handling of the incident was outstanding.” However, Scott also concluded that before responding, France should have told him or another supervisor that he had been drinking.
Fuller said he wanted to submit Scott’s memorandum of concern addressing the matter to the jury, but it was precluded.
Regardless, Fuller said he was satisfied that justice was done. Jaramillo would be taken off the streets and held accountable.
“We respect the jury’s verdict,” he said.
Jaramillo could face up to 12.5 years in prison. A judge will sentence him May 6.
Jaramillo could later be transferred to Apache County to stand trial there for his alleged involvement in Long’s death.