Crime and the Courts Year in Review: Continuing Police Attention, Bike Party Crash Shakes Flagstaff | Local

Policing in Flagstaff continued to evolve in 2021 after the 2020 toll spurred by the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. City officials and department heads pleaded for transparency and pushed for systemic change.

The year also saw its share of major crimes, including a high-profile murder trial and the fatal Flag Bike Party crash that rocked the community.

Here are some of the biggest stories of 2021:

FPD launches monthly reports

The Flagstaff Police Department began releasing monthly crime statistics in January.

The reports, which were shared on the City of Flagstaff website, provided details on incidents that had occurred in the past month, including burglaries, assaults, arson, sex offenses and more. It also provided a comparison with averages for the year to date. It also included reports on traffic incidents, patrol operations and service calls.

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Department officials said publishing the data increases transparency, helps prevention and helps identify developing trends.

However, the department stopped downloading additional reports after June, apparently without any explanation.






Flagstaff Police Chief Dan Musselman poses for a photo.


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun


New head of the FPD

Dan Musselman was officially sworn in as Chief of the Flagstaff Police Department in early 2021.

The veteran of the department had served as interim chief since June 2020, when former chief Kevin Treadway retired. He was finally selected from among 35 candidates.

Musselman has worked for FPD since 1995 and has served as Deputy Police Chief since 2021. He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Northern Arizona University.

The new leader told the Arizona Daily Sun in January that he plans to continue his predecessor’s commitment to leading an “ethical and competent department” with a renewed emphasis on transparency.

When he took office, Musselman said he was keenly aware of key issues facing the department, including attracting quality staff, rising costs of police technology and increasing efficiency. within the department.

Former candidate convicted of forgery

Victor Varela was sentenced to two years probation for falsifying hundreds of signatures in hopes of making it into the August 2020 primary ballot for mayor of Flagstaff.

Valera was initially charged with 12 separate counts, but eventually pleaded guilty to a single count as part of a plea deal in April.






Conviction of Victor Varela

Victor Varela, a former Flagstaff mayoral candidate, addresses the judge during his Coconino County Superior Court sentencing hearing in April 2021.


Rachel Gibbons, Arizona Daily Sun


He admitted to Arizona Daily Sun last year that he knowingly submitted the fraudulent signatures. The forged petition included more than 1,000 signatures, many of which included false names and addresses. More than 700 of the addresses used by Varela were not recorded in the city’s mapping system, according to the analysis of the Daily sun.

Varela alleged that COVID-19 restrictions prevented him from collecting the necessary signatures for the petition.

Two teachers accused of sex crimes

Two teachers at Flagstaff High School were charged with committing sex crimes in 2021.

Walter Halaberda, a former FHS English teacher, reportedly touched himself inappropriately during a Zoom class with students in January. A recording of the incident then spread on social media and Halaberda resigned shortly thereafter in May.

Next, former FHS business instructor Gregory Contreras was charged with luring a minor for the purpose of sexual exploitation in July after a minor student allegedly told school administrators that he had sent them obscene messages on social media. He pleaded not guilty to the prosecution.

Contreras voluntarily relinquished all of his Arizona teaching certificates in April.

Tow truck driver arrested in Flag Bike Party crash

A tow truck driver struck several cyclists on a bike ride in May, injuring several cyclists and killing Joanna “Jo” Wheaton, 29.

Police said the driver – identified as Normand Cloutier, 58, of California – turned on the red light as cyclists drove through the intersection of Butler Avenue and Beaver Street. Authorities said the traffic light for cyclists had already turned green as they started to cross.






Cloutier

Cloutier


Cloutier was charged with causing death by mobile offense. The accident reverberated throughout the Flagstaff community, renewing continued pressure from residents to improve cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and sparking conversations among elected officials about improving safety.

Cloutier was then indicted by a grand jury in Coconino County Superior Court in October with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after investigators said they found hundreds of images depicting child pornography on his phone during the investigation.

Both cases are still ongoing.

Cottonwood man charged with violating the Capitol on January 6

A Cottonwood man has been charged with allegedly participating in the January 6 violation of the United States Capitol while in costume.

Federal prosecutors allege that Nathan Wayne Entrekin, 48, felt called upon by then-President Donald Trump to travel more than 2,200 miles to witness the attack in Washington, DC. He used his cell phone to document videos of the riot for his mother, according to Federal Court documents.






Nathan Wayne Entrekin

A screenshot included in court documents allegedly shows Nathan Wayne Entrenik of Cottonwood participating in the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6. Federal investigators say he recorded videos of the riots to show his mother.


Courtesy


He said in the video that he was dressed as Captain Moroni, a Book of Mormon military commander who raised armies to fight for freedom, according to detailed court documents. Officials said his costume was identical to that of a “Roman gladiator” costume.

Entrekin was arrested in Cottonwood in July and charged with two offenses in connection with the incident. He was then returned to his mother’s care as the case progressed in Federal Court.

City adopts alternative response model

Flagstaff City Council has approved a $ 2.5 million contract with Terros Health to deploy an alternative mobile response unit.

The move mirrors that made by dozens of agencies across the country as cities seek to reduce the number of non-crime calls – such as public intoxication, behavioral crises and mental health – handled by police services and instead connects individuals to resources. better equipped to handle these calls.

The Mobile Response Unit is expected to reduce the number of calls handled by Flagstaff Police and Fire Departments by 5-10%.

But service providers said at a town hall in September that the city’s plan needed clearer direction and more input from local experts, as well as an increased focus on building solutions. lodging.

City officials have said the unit is expected to launch in early 2022.






Guilty duran

Timothy Duran speaks with his lawyer, Greg Parzych, after a jury found Duran guilty of first degree murder in the death of his wife, Crystal Morgan, in this 2021 file photo.


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun File


Doney Park man convicted of stabbing his wife

Timothy Duran of Doney Park was convicted of killing his wife in front of her children following a brief trial in October.

Duran, 41, stabbed his wife, Crystal Morgan, 35, with a screwdriver and a carving fork in March 2019. She was found dead on a neighbor’s lawn minutes later. calling 911 for help.

The defense did not argue that Duran was innocent, but rather that the murder was not premeditated.

A jury found Duran guilty of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and several other counts after less than two hours of deliberation.

Duran now faces life imprisonment. He is being held at the Coconino County Detention Center without bond until his sentencing on January 6.

Mark Gooch sentenced for murder of teacher

A jury has found 22-year-old Mark Gooch guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Sasha Krause after a high-profile trial.

The Coconino County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than six hours over two days before returning the guilty verdict against the former US Airforce aviator. He was stationed at Luke Air Force Base prior to his arrest.

Prosecutors said Gooch traveled more than seven hours to kidnap Krause, 27, from his Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico. His body was found by a camper searching for firewood a month later in the Sunset Volcano Crater National Monument area.

However, Gooch’s attorney Bruce Griffen argued that there was little forensic evidence linking Gooch to Krause. He was ultimately linked to the crime using a cell phone and financial records in addition to surveillance footage.

His sentence is set for January 19. Gooch faces life imprisonment.






Gooch murder trial begins

Mark Gooch sits under a portrait of Sasha Krause during prosecution oral argument on the first day of Gooch’s first degree murder trial in the death of Sasha Krause in September.


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun File


Journalist Bree Burkitt can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @breeburkitt.



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