Man struck with machete over EBT card dispute

Victim treated at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and released

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A man was treated and released from the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center (MGRMC) on Thursday after he was struck in the head by a machete.

According to a Safford Police report, the man was struck after an argument ensued regarding the use of his EBT food stamp card while visiting an acquaintance at an apartment in the 400 block of W. 9th Street.

The alleged assailant, Paul Lopez, 30, was arrested and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on the charge of aggravated assault.

Officers were initially dispatched to MGRMC at about 7:18 p.m. regarding the assault. Upon arrival, the victim’s sister informed them that she was driving her car up to her residence in the 1200 block of S. 2nd Avenue when she saw her brother walking while holding a shirt to his head.

She took the victim to the hospital, where his 5- or 6-inch head laceration required staples to seal back together.

The victim allegedly told an officer that he had lent his EBT card to Lopez and they got into a confrontation when Lopez refused to hand it back. He said a third man entered the fray with a pipe and that he threw a bicycle at Lopez because Lopez was wielding his machete. The victim then ran south toward a canal but Lopez allegedly caught up to him and struck him in the head with the machete.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Paul Lopez

An officer spoke with the occupant of the apartment, who said he heard the victim and Lopez having an argument and admitted grabbing a pipe and telling them to move the altercation away from his apartment. The occupant said he saw the victim throw a bicycle at Lopez and then run away down an alley with Lopez in tow.

The occupant then said the two men came back and were arguing again and he had to escort the victim back down the alley. The occupant said he never saw a machete or any injury to the victim.

An officer then spoke to Lopez, who gave permission to the officer to retrieve his machete from his apartment. Lopez allegedly corroborated the victim’s story about the EBT card and said he never attempted to give it back because the victim was behaving aggressively toward him.

Lopez said he chased the victim because he threw a bicycle at him and wouldn’t leave the area even after being asked several times. He said when he caught up with him, the victim attempted to tackle his friend and he hit the victim in the head with the machete to stop the victim from going after them.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Paul Lopez was booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on a charge of aggravated assault. 

The officer located numerous machete-type blades in Lopez’s apartment, and Lopez gave him the one he used as well as the victim’s EBT card. There were also three people in the apartment at the time, including Yolanda Cabrera and Nikita Yazzie, who both had warrants for their arrest on unrelated charges and were also booked into the jail. The third occupant said he had just arrived and hadn’t seen the incident.

Because Lopez had the victim’s EBT card and admitted to striking him in the head with the machete, Lopez was arrested and booked into the jail on a charge of aggravated assault.