Protesters target Sheriff Paul BabeuPosted: Updated:
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. -- At least a dozen protesters stood in front of the Pinal County Sheriff's office carrying signs expressing their outrage with Sheriff Paul Babeu.
“He continues to go off half cocked. He doesn't stand back and allow the investigators on his staff to conduct an investigation before he seeks out the cameras,” said protester Dennis Howerton.
Protesters accused the sheriff of falsely connecting a burning SUV found in the Vekol Valley with five bodies inside to the drug cartels.
A spokesperson with the Tempe Police department confirmed Tuesday that the SUV belongs to a missing Tempe family of five, with likely no drug connections.
“I definitely want the sheriff to apologize to the family of the people who were burned and killed,” said protester Tom Bean.
On Saturday, Babeu told the media at a press conference the SUV was found in a major drug trafficking corridor.
The sheriff also said he didn't have all the facts about this homicide investigation.
“We don't know who these people are. We don't know if they're U.S. citizens or members of the cartel,” Babeu said to the press.
He also said Saturday he wasn’t certain the homicide was connected to the drug cartels.
At the press conference Babeu said he was waiting for the full investigation to be completed before saying exactly what happened in the desert.
Over the weekend, the Sheriff posted on his Facebook page: "Thanks to all our Homicide detectives who are investigating this alarming 5 person murder and the torching of the vehicle (likely in an effort to destroy evidence). All information is pointing that this is connected to the violent drug car...tel smuggling in this high smuggling area.
We have been working closely with ICE, US Border Patrol and other local law enforcement to fight back against the drug cartel smuggling. The border is NOT more secure than ever Ms. Napolitano!"
On Wednesday Babeu said "I never made a pronouncement never a conclusion of fact. I was very careful to say that and now everybody is saying oh you jumped the gun and made this pronouncement, but I never made a pronouncement."
Both protesters and the Sheriff agree Wednesday’s protest is about politics.
“I've determined in my mind that he is violating the law enforcement code of ethics. He's doing it in the sense that he has a political agenda,” said Howerton.
The Sheriff is running again for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
The race is almost two months out.
Babeu said he learned about the missing Tempe family of five on Monday.
Investigators with the Tempe Police Department are waiting on the Medical Examiner’s office to identify the five bodies found in the desert.