Speeding ticket sparks controversy between politician and officer
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
FLORENCE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Two sides to the story are surfacing in a traffic stop involving a career lawmaker and a veteran law enforcer. Pete Rios, Chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, claims a cop manhandled him. The Hayden police officer claims Rios refused to produce his driver's license and then tried to impress him with who he was. The run-in has sparked a small controversy that's making its way across the big state of Arizona.
Rios, a long-time politician, said he's driven Highway 177 too many times to count.
"I was born and raised in Hayden," said Rios.
But while admits he's well aware of the 45 mile per hour speed limit, on Tuesday around noon an officer in the small mining town clocked his truck going 57.
"I had parked, I was jumping out of my truck going into the restaurant," said Rios.
Rios claims the officer drove up and called out to him. So he turned around and began walking towards him.
"I said what's your probable cause and he said I don't have to tell you," said Rios.
According to the police report, the officer claims his lights were flashing but there was a car between the two. The officer said Rios refused to give him his driver's license.
After a third and final warning, Police Chief Monty Antcliff said his officer took action.
"The officer physically took him by the shirt and the arm and marched him over to the patrol car," said Antcliff.
Rios claims he was pulling out his wallet when the officer got aggressive.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked: "Knowing that the first thing an officer asks for is a drivers license, why not just produce yours?"
"I had not seen the police officer until I hear him call me and I turn around and there he is," answered Rios.
The officer claims Rios continued to argue so he called for back up. It turns out the chief was the back-up officer on call that afternoon so he responded.
Rios demanded to talk to the chief and identified himself as a former state senator and current chair of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
"I think that he was trying to let me know that he was a person of importance and that maybe there should be some leniency," said Antcliff.
Antcliff descibed Rios' behavior as unprofessional. The chief also confirmed what the officer wrote in his report, that Rios referred to him as a piece of "____."
"I'm upset with how he acted towards my officer, my department and myself and he needs to make some apologies to this department," said Antcliff.
Nuñez asked Rios: "Were you belligerent?"
"Of course not," replied Rios.
Nuñez asked: "Why would the police chief say that?"
Rios answered, "Maybe that's his interpretation."
Nuñez asked: "Will you apologize to the police officer and to the police chief?"
"No," answered Rios. "If anybody owes anybody an apology it's the police officer for using physical force."
Rios said he'll pay his fine and go to traffic school. However, he also plans to file a complaint against the police officer.
The former lawmaker points to state law that says anyone who refuses to provide a drivers license is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. Rios said nowhere in the law does it give an officer authority to use what he called "excessive force."
Rios tells 9 On Your Side he was pulled over two years ago. He claims it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. According to Rios, the officer let him go after she determined he was not the person throwing beer bottles outside a nearby union hall.
Rios blames political opponents for tipping off the media and turning his speeding ticket into something he says its really not.