SAFFORD – Last Wednesday, an officer on patrol came across a vehicle parked North of 26th Street in the desert area. As the officer approached the SUV, approximately 5 people could be seen sitting inside. The vehicle was not running and both the driver’s window and rear passenger’s window were halfway down. The officer noticed a passenger, later identified as Juan Estrada, leaning down as if he was putting something under the seat. Sitting next to him was a 15 year old female who said she wasn’t in school because she just moved there. When the officer asked what they were doing in the area, the driver stated he was waiting for his girlfriend to wire him some money so he could go and get gas. The driver then mentioned he was going to take all the passengers home and go job hunting. When the officer mentioned that the area was a known place for drug use, the group assured the officer they were not using drugs.
After speaking with the group in the SUV, the officer checked for warrants at his patrol vehicle for Estrada and the other male adult. Dispatch confirmed a full extradition warrant for Estrada’s arrest out of Yuma. The officer also checked with the School Resource Officer to see if the juveniles might be ditching school. It was reported the high school was currently out for lunch.
The officer went back to speak with Estrada, who claimed he did not know he had been charged with any crimes out of Yuma. When he was asked, Estrada stated he didn’t know if there were any weapons in the vehicle. Because the warrant was for a felony, and the officer seeing him act as if he had put something under the seat earlier, Estrada was handcuffed as he exited the SUV. After being asked, Estrada stated he had been to prison for drug crimes and he didn’t know if his gun rights had ever been taken, but his crimes had not been violent. He was secured in the patrol vehicle.
The officer re-approached the SUV to speak with the male driver and explained what was happening with the warrant arrest of Estrada. The officer asked the man if there would be anything illegal in the vehicle and if he knew his passenger had a warrant. The man seemed to be nervous while the officer spoke with him. The man said he could vouch for his passengers and that they would not have anything illegal, however, he said that he did not check them as they got into his vehicle. The man claimed to not really know who Estrada was.
Another officer arrived and assisted in searching the vehicle and the area Estrada had been sitting. A 9mm handgun was found under the seat. The officer cleared the weapon quickly. The rest of the passengers were pat searched for weapons as well. As the officer continued searching the SUV, marijuana and drug paraphernalia underneath the passenger side front seat where a juvenile was sitting was found. The officer first noticed loose marijuana lying on the carpet floorboard and a rolled cigarette near it, lying mostly underneath a piece of folded paper. A baggie of marijuana was then found under the seat along with a metal can with a partially ingested marijuana cigarette and a small portion of loose marijuana. The male driver swore to the officer he had no knowledge of the items found, he had just gotten off probation for smoking marijuana and he was just trying to have a nice day and hang out with friends.
One of the juveniles reported to the officer they had no knowledge of the marijuana. He said that his parents have him drug tested, and denied that anyone handed him the substance to hide. Another juvenile present stated he was the first one to be picked up, and noticed another juvenile moving “pretty fast” when the officer arrived to the area. The female juvenile reported the marijuana was not hers or Estrada’s and one of the other juveniles was just on his phone when the police showed up. One of the juveniles was picked up by their mother at the Police Department.
At the Police Department, Estrada claimed no knowledge of the marijuana, and reported he had bent down to the floorboard to get his phone. Estrada stated he did not know if his fingerprints would be on the gun found, because the male driver had shown it to him earlier, but that there should have been two guns. Estrada stated that the male driver told him that the gun was not his but never told Estrada who the gun belonged to.
Estrada was booked into the Graham County Jail for the warrant. Additional charges of prohibited possession were also added.
The 9mm handgun turned out stolen from a residence in Pima. The legal owner was able to provide documentation showing the the firearm belonged to him. He reportedly told police that Estrada and the other man had been to his house a week earlier, but he had just discovered that his guns had been stolen. When he heard that Estrada had been arrested with a gun in his possession, the man checked his weapons and discovered they had been stolen.