Residents in small Pinal Co. town not surprised by gun battle

Residents in small Pinal Co. town not surprised by gun battle

CREATED Apr 19, 2011

Reporter: Sergio Avila
Web Producer: Layla Tang

STANFIELD, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Pinal County deputies have confirmed that a shootout near Stanfield was a battle between drug smugglers and border bandits. One person died in the gunfire; another was injured.  Now 9 On Your Side has learned that six men have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

The six were found inside a rundown home in Stanfield.  At first, they denied being involved in any way with the deadly shooting, but investigators believe they were part of the group of illegal immigrants who were smuggling marijuana across Antelope Peak when they were attacked by a rip crew consisting of three to four bandits.

Another man who was injured in the battle remains hospitalized.  The man, who was shot in the stomach, fled immediately after the shooting to an Interstate 8 rest stop and called his daughter in Phoenix, who called police.  Deputies told KGUN9 News they have yet to determine the man's name and wether he's a smuggler or a bandit.

People in the small town of Stanfield told 9 On Your Side that while the story has dominated the local news, it's not anything new to them.  They have seen things those types of things happening for years.

"There's a lot of it going on, I try to keep a low profile," said Marilyn Deeter, a 15-year Stanfield resident.  She said smugglers also keep low profiles, although they're obviously around. Evidence of smuggling can be found all over the ground nearby.  Backpacks were discarded all over a small part of the desert along with clothes and bottles of water.

But it's not just drugs; Stanfield resident Fred Eschbach runs into illegal immigrants pretty often. 

"I could be working in my shop and have three or four guys all of a sudden come up behind me that obviously they don't speak English.  They don't know where they are or where they're going but they want to use the phone, they want to use your bathroom, they want some water," Eschbach told KGUN9's Sergio Avila.

Although news of these types of gun battles and arrests have recently received more media coverage, Eschbach believes the frequency hasn't changed in the fifteen years she has lived in Stanfield.

"We see things, you know, people running around. It's not more, it just seems to be pretty steady," Eschbach said.

Deputies told 9 On Your Side there were 14 smugglers in all, but only six were arrested.  The three to four bandits also weren't caught and the drugs they were fighting over are also still missing.