SAFFORD – After conducting a thorough investigation into an altercation between a Canyon Del Oro High School wrestler and a Salpointe Christian High School wrestling coach, the Safford Police Department has submitted the case to the Graham County Attorney’s Office for review. Police Detectives are requesting the following charges:
Michael Buda Jr – Aggravated Assault, Disorderly Conduct and Interfering with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution.
Michael Buda Sr – Disorderly Conduct and Interfering with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution.
On Saturday, February 2, 2019, Safford officers were dispatched to Safford High School regarding a fight in progress. Dispatch advised the responding officers of a large-scale fight involving multiple parties during a wrestling tournament in the high school gym. By the time the officers arrived the fight was over and the parties involved had been separated.
The initial altercation involved 18-year-old Canyon Del Oro wrestler, Michael Buda, Jr, and a Salpointe wrestler. According to the police report, The Salpointe wrestler made an illegal move and was penalized. When the match resumed, Buda retaliated with an elbow to the Salpointe Wrestler’s face. The referee stopped the match and penalized a point against Buda. When the wrestlers were getting up, the Salpointe wrestler pushed off of Buda to get up and Buda punched the Salpointe wrestler in the face and neck.
The Salpointe coach, who is an off-duty Pima County Sheriff’s deputy, told authorities that there had been previous problems with Buda at other matches. At a previous wrestling meet Buda had allegedly bit the finger of a different Salpointe wrestler during a wrestling match.
The Salpointe coach stepped in to get his wrestler and exchanged words with the Canyon Del Oro coaches about who had started the altercation. Buda was disqualified from the match. As he walked past the Salpointe coach and shook hands the coach said, “you’re better than that.” Buda apparently hurled several expletive-laden insults as he walked past.
The Salpointe coach approached the Canyon Del Oro coaches asking if they were going to let Buda “do whatever he wants.”
At that point, Buda apparently turned on the coach acting as if he was going to come after him. One of the Canyon Del Oro coaches stopped him and told him to let it go.
While the Salpointe coach was walking away, he heard someone from the stands screaming obscenities at him. Michael Buda Sr, the wrestler’s father was coming down from the stands toward the coach hissing threats and obscenities. As the Salpointe coach looked into the stands he was tackled from the rear by Buda Jr. Bystanders quickly separated the coach and wrestler and the coach was asked to go to the locker room. Later a referee allowed him back to the meet, saying that he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Michael Buda Sr. was intercepted by some coaches and prevented from pursuing the opposing team’s coach. He and one of his sons had crossed the rope trying to reach the mat. Both Buda Sr and Buda Jr were ejected from the meet. Surveillance video tracked them as they left the gym. A camera in the parking lot showed them running east toward 14thAvenue. The father and son squatted behind a white truck and hid when the first Safford PD squad car entered the school parking lot. They were apprehended by another officer while walking toward Walmart by the canal.
When interviewed by police Buda Sr. was reportedly angry and hostile toward them. When asked why he was running from authorities the father stated that they were told to leave. During the conversation Buda Sr was yelling at assisting officers on the scene and calling them obscene names. Other family members arrived including Buda Sr’s wife and his wife’s mother. His daughter and a younger son were also there. The group was reportedly hostile and uncooperative with investigators.
Based on witness statements, statements from Buda Jr and the behavior of the Buda family, police believed that Michael Buda Jr was the primary aggressor that caused the large disturbance during the wrestling tournament. Michael Buda Jr was cited and released for Assault and Disorderly Conduct. Officers told the Budas not to return to the Safford Gym.
The officers returned to Safford High School where they continued to interview witnesses and review video footage. Soon the Buda family returned to the gym against police orders. Officers were called back into the gym where Buda Sr’s wife, daughter and grandmother were recording with their cell phones provoking further disturbance.
While the officer was speaking with school officials, officers were advised that Michael Buda Sr was calling 911 repeatedly, demanding to talk to a supervisor at the Safford Police department. The officer went to the police department where the Buda family was waiting. Buda Sr told the officer that he would continue to call 911 until he got a supervisor. He continue using profane language and flipping the officer off from inside his vehicle. Buda Jr reportedly made the statement, “Don’t you worry, you’ll get yours next.” An off-duty Sergeant agreed to come down and talk to the family.
Based on the evidence obtained from interviews, video and observing the Buda’s behavior, authorities made the determination to request formal charges against Michael Buda Sr. and Michael Buda Jr.
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