Just 48 hours before announcing his abrupt retirement, former Payson Town Attorney Hector Figueroa discovered guns are not allowed at the rodeo.
Councilor Steve Smith came to the rodeo with Figueroa Saturday night.
Smith says neither of them realized that the pistol Figueroa carried on his hip was a problem despite the posted signs saying no guns allowed.
“When I walked in I thought, ‘It’s Payson, it must be OK.’ I’ll bet you at least one to 20 people had concealed weapons,” said Smith. “Six people saw (Figueroa’s gun) and didn’t say anything ... (but) looking back, I would have said, ‘Hey, let’s not take that in.’”
But Smith didn’t say anything to Figueroa about the gun.
Smith, his wife and Figueroa decided to grab a drink and try to catch a view of the rodeo through the standing-room only crowd. After Figueroa took a drink, a man in a white shirt — who Smith believes was a Rodeo Committee member — said, “Hey, you can’t drink and have a weapon.”
Figueroa reportedly tossed the drink and walked over to Smith.
“He bumps into me and says, ‘I need to put this in my pocket. ‘Then he just put the gun there,” said Smith.
Feeling uncomfortable, Smith decided to take the gun to his truck — but more Rodeo Committee staff caught up to them as they went to leave.
“We didn’t even get to the gate when another white-shirted person asks, ‘Who has the gun?’ I say, ‘I do, it’s in my pocket,’” said Smith.
Rodeo staff took the gun outside the gate, emptied the chambers, took a picture of the gun and handed it back to Figueroa.
“They said, ‘Mr. Figueroa, here’s your ID back and the gun. You can reload.’ That was 30 feet from the rodeo,” said Smith.
The committee member also told Smith that, “The whole area is considered a liquor zone and you can’t have weapons here.”
Payson Police Chief Ron Tischer confirmed that it is prohibited to carry a gun into an establishments that is licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises — so no guns in a bar — or an arena serving alcohol.
Smith and Figueroa returned to the rodeo but left shortly thereafter because they could find no seats.
The Roundup reached out to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, who is reportedly handling the investigation, but had not heard back as of press time. Tischer said the PPD is not investigating.
When Figueroa and Smith were in town hall on Monday, Figueroa was, “given notice they wanted to talk to him about his performance ... 15 minutes before the 24-hour marker for a meeting (notice),” Smith said.
Figueroa told Smith, “I’m 71 years old, I have nieces and nephews and I’d rather be enjoying my time with them.”
Smith said, “Well then, you don’t have to deal with this.”
The next day, Figueroa submitted his intent to retire.
As of press time, Figueroa had not responded to the Roundup’s requests for comment.
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