Guilty! Jury finds Manuel Campos guilty of possessing a prohibited deadly weapon in Thatcher shooting

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: It took a jury less than an hour to find Manuel Campos guilty of possessing a prohibited weapon in an alleged incident that occurred Jan. 31.

Second trial to cover the rest of the charges from Thatcher shooting case and Hess shooting south of Safford scheduled for September

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – It took a jury of his peers less than an hour of deliberation before finding Manuel Ramon Campos, 38, guilty of misconduct involving weapons/possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person. Campos was found not guilty on a second similar charge regarding his possession of a knife.

The three-day trial wrapped up with the defense calling only one witness, Campos’ little sister, Thursday, followed by closing arguments and jury instructions. 

In her testimony, Campos’ sister said she gave her brother a ride to near where the incident took place and that she never saw him with a shotgun. 

Campos declined to take the stand in his own defense.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Manuel Campos confers with his attorneys, Dennis McCarthy and Daisy Flores, prior to his court session resuming.

“I’m choosing not to testify,” Campos told Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson. Graham County defense attorneys Dennis McCarthy and Daisy Flores represented Campos, while the prosecution was handled by Cochise County Deputy County Attorney Daniel Akers.  

Shortly after 4 p.m. the jury was sent to deliberate and came back around 5 p.m. the same day with a verdict.

The prosecution had to bifurcate the trial due to case law regarding the admission of prior bad acts. Since prior bad acts cannot be admitted so as to not prejudice the jury, the prosecution had to prove Campos did indeed possess a shotgun allegedly used in the crime prior to proving he committed the crime.

In itself, misconduct involving weapons/possession of a deadly weapon is a Class – 4 felony, and with two prior convictions, the presumptive sentence is 10 years in prison. Campos is scheduled to be sentenced on the guilty verdict Aug. 13, from 1:30 – 5 p.m.    

The charge stems from a Jan. 31 incident in which Campos allegedly broke into a residence at 3589 W. Main St. in Thatcher and demanded money from the resident while brandishing a shotgun. When the victim responded that she didn’t have any money, Campos allegedly fired a shot into the floor next to the victim’s leg and then reportedly told her “the next one is for you (expletive deleted)” and then ran out the back door. (Gila Herald: Police report Campos broke into residence, threatened the victim with a shotgun and fired round into the floor – Feb. 7, 2019)

Campos was later found hiding from police underneath a jacuzzi lid in a resident’s backyard on Spencer Lane, and the shotgun was recovered from a bush next to the Newman Catholic Center at 3592 W. Fourth St; a shoe print the prosecution said matches the shoes Campos was wearing was found next to the shotgun. DNA testing showed Campos’ DNA was on the shotgun shell loaded in the weapon.  

This initial three-day trial only covered if Campos was guilty of possessing a deadly weapon, and the jury ruled he was guilty on the charge of possessing a shotgun but decided the multitool-style knife he was carrying didn’t meet the bar for being labeled a deadly weapon and he was found not guilty on a prohibited possession charge for having the knife. The other charges against him, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, two counts of robbery, two counts of burglary, and disorderly conduct with a deadly weapon will be tried in a subsequent trial Sept. 11 – 20.

When he was arrested, the knife was initially placed with his property for three weeks before it was deemed a prohibited weapon and placed into evidence, a fact defense attorney Daisy Flores pointed out during her closing statements to the jury. 

Flores also questioned the validity of the Thatcher Police Department’s investigation, saying the department failed to competently investigate the incident and listed a number of procedures she said the officers did not do, including securing the scene, canvassing neighbors for anyone else who may have heard the shotgun blast, and failure to test Campos’ clothing for gunshot residue or take the victim’s clothing as evidence and test that as well. 

“It’s reasonable to expect more from your police officers,” Flores said.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Manuel Campos’ case in the Swift Trail shooting also appears to be headed for trial.

Flores also said the victim’s testimony of how the incident went down was suspect because nobody else heard the gunshot and there was no smell of gunpowder at the scene. The victim herself testified in jail clothes after being arrested and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on drug charges June 6, including possession of a narcotic drug for sale. 

Akers defended the investigation by saying Flores’ statements were a distraction tactic and he implored the jury to not punish the police for making some mistakes any small, rural police department could make. 

“You’re not here to punish the police because they had trouble documenting their full investigation,” Akers said. “You’re here to decide if this man is guilty. If you decide he’s guilty and you think to yourself, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty but we ruinous lawyers, we’ve got to punish the cops. They really screwed this one up. That’s not following the law. That’s not good for the community. You need to find this man guilty. He’s obviously guilty.”    

Campos is also facing an upcoming trial regarding the December 2017 shooting of Gary Don Hess. In that case, Campos is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault resulting in disfigurement, two counts of assault, discharging a firearm at a residence, three counts of disorderly conduct with a deadly weapon, three counts of endangerment, and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited possessor. (Gila Herald: Campos arraigned on Hess shooting case – March 22, 2019)