Column By Mike Bibb
The Gila Herald’s recent story “Woman shot while walking through Bylas,” was similar to an incident my family and I experienced about 15 years ago when returning from a Thanksgiving vacation in Mexico.
A story of our mishap appeared in the Nov. 28, 2006 edition of the Eastern Arizona Courier.
While heading east toward Safford, passing the Bylas Clinic, my truck’s driver-side door window glass suddenly exploded. Shards of glass ripped into my face and across the dash. The bullet also damaged the windshield. Fortunately, no one else was injured.
My wife, youngest daughter, and pet corgi were also in the cab. We were towing a 28′ 5th wheel camp trailer.
I managed to maintain control of the vehicle, finally stopping across the highway from the service station — several hundred yards from the shooting. Not wishing to immediately stop, possibly providing an opportunity for the shooter to fire-off another round or two, we proceeded to what I believed to be safely out of range before stopping.
My face was bloody and punctured with glass, but not severe enough to render me incapable of functioning. I called 9-1-1 and about 15 minutes later a Bylas police officer arrived. A little while later an ambulance showed up.
The officer’s immediate question was “Did you see who threw the rock?”
“The rock; what rock?”, I replied a little puzzled why he would think our vehicle had been hit by a rock. “I didn’t see anyone along the highway right-a-way who could have been close enough to hit a 50-mph moving target with a rock” I informed the officer.
By this time, the EMTs appeared and began cleaning my face. The officer continued to examine the truck, busily writing down his official report on a small 3″ x 5″ lined note pad. He informed me he would later send a copy of his investigation.
I never got it.
The next day after returning to Safford, I reported the incident to Sheriff Frank Hughes. He was sympathetic, but let me know he didn’t have jurisdiction on the reservation because it’s federal property. He added he would be discussing other matters with the FBI and would mention my situation.
I’m still awaiting the FBI’s response.
Interesting to note during this time there were several Bylas shootings of passing vehicles, including commercial acid trucks and school busses. Actually, a Thatcher High School female student was struck after a bullet passed through the side of the bus, lodging in the girl’s leg.
Two, maybe three weeks following my ordeal, the Courier newspaper reported the Bylas police had determined my family and I had been fired upon by a 12-year-old boy with a BB gun. Which sounded incredulous. Still does. Unless the boy received some kind of marksmanship training, and spent many hours at the rifle range, the odds of him hitting a rapidly moving target with a BB rifle — and doing damage — seems beyond belief.
Looks like nothing has changed much on the rez. Folks are still being shot. Maybe it’s the same kid, only grown-up and using a bigger gun.