By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – The man accused of fatally shooting Jared Michael Garcia, 35, of Safford, in the parking lot of the Bull Pen bar in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 26, will likely be incarcerated at least until a resolution to his charges comes to fruition.
Salih Abdul-Haqq Zaid, 39, of Thatcher is charged with murder in the first degree and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held on $1 million bond.
Zaid allegedly shot Garcia in the parking lot of the Bull Pen bar at 912 W. Thatcher Blvd. during a physical altercation at about 12:50 a.m. Bull Pen owner Vienna Williams told Gila Valley Central that Zaid was told to leave the bar after an incident with Garcia while both were inside. She said Zaid then complied and left.
However, Zaid apparently came back to the parking lot area at some point and reengaged in his dispute with Garcia. Zaid was pulled over shortly after the shooting by a Safford sergeant, who discovered multiple firearms in Zaid’s possession. Zaid was then arrested and later booked into the Graham County Jail.
Zaid has been appointed Dennis McCarthy as his defense attorney and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing for May 10 at 4 p.m. in front of Justice of the Peace District 1 Judge Gary Griffith. If the hearing isn’t waived, the defense and prosecution will argue whether there is enough evidence to bind the matter over to Graham County Superior Court. If the hearing is waived, which is a strong possibility given the evidence already known to be collected by police, the matter will automatically be bound over and will then be heard by Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson, barring any request to recuse him as judge.
McCarthy has handled several high-profile cases for Graham County in the past, including the Paul Ray Simon Garcia, 37, case, in which Paul Ray was sentenced to 35 years in prison for using drugs to molest his daughter. Paul Ray later died in prison, only a month into serving his term.
McCarthy also briefly worked on the Mariceo Inez Rea, 20, murder case in 2015, which was Graham County’s last fatal shooting. In that case, Rea admitted to shooting Manuel Espinoza III, 31, to death on June 25, 2015 over a drug dispute when Rea was just 18. He pleaded guilty in March 2015 to an amended charge of murder in the second degree – a Class-1 dangerous felony – and was sentenced to a stipulated maximum term of 25 years in prison by Graham County Superior Court Judge Pro Tem D. Corey Sanders. In that case, Judge Peterson served in a settlement conference, which is why the case was transferred to Judge Sanders to accept the plea.