Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Manuel Ramon Campos, 37, was arrested and booked into the jail on multiple counts regarding an alleged burglary and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Suspect found hiding under jacuzzi cover in residential backyard
By Jon Johnson
THATCHER – Manuel Ramon Campos, 37, was booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on Thursday, Jan. 31, on multiple charges regarding a burglary and shooting incident and now information on the incident has come to light.
Campos was booked into the jail on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, disorderly conduct with a deadly weapon, burglary, criminal damage, and unlawful discharging of a firearm. He had been wanted on a warrant since Oct. 31, 2018, when a $5,000 cash bench warrant for his arrest was issued relating to a guilty charge of possession of marijuana.
Due to a conflict of interest with the Graham County Attorney’s Office, a special prosecutor from the Cochise County Attorney’s Office will handle the case in Graham County.
If the allegations hold true, it would appear that Campos has a modus operandi. He was one of two suspects in the December 18, 2017, shooting of Gary Don Hess at the victim’s residence in the 900 block of State Route 366 (Swift Trail).
In that case, a shotgun blast went through the victim’s door and hit Hess in the neck. Hess was flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and responded well to treatment. Grainy surveillance video appears to show Campos holding a shotgun toward the residence as it is fired.
The second suspect in that case, Robert Lee Lafler, took a plea agreement and was sentenced April 12, 2018, to seven years in prison on a charge of misconduct involving weapons – a Class-4 Felony – with a four-year probation tail on an amended charge of discharging a firearm at a residential structure – a Class-2 Felony.
Campos was charged with misconduct involving weapons, discharging a firearm at a residence, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assault with a by causing serious physical injury but his case was dismissed without prejudice. Now it appears that prosecutors will likely refile those charges in addition to his most recent escapade.
According to Thatcher Police reports, officers were dispatched to a residence at 3589 W. Main St. at about 3:27 p.m. regarding a shooting incident. Multiple deputies with the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and officers with the Pima and Safford Police departments also responded.
Upon arrival, the victim told officers that Campos had broken into her home and threatened her with a shotgun. She said Campos said he was going to shoot her for “what she did to his brother” and then demanded money. When she responded that she didn’t have any money, Campos allegedly fired a shot into the floor next to the victim’s leg. He then reportedly told her “the next one is for you (expletive deleted)” and then ran out the back door.
Campos’ brother is currently serving a prison sentence and has been romantically linked to the victim. The victim stated everything was fine between them, however, and didn’t know what Campos was talking about.
Investigators recovered a spent shotgun shell underneath a nearby desk, gunpowder, and a small, white object that was later determined to be wax.
Campos was located by a Sheriff’s Office deputy at about 3:44 p.m. near the Thatcher High School bus barn. At that time, the deputy disarmed Campos of a knife but the shotgun was not in his possession. According to the deputy’s report, after taking away the knife, Campos ran from the deputy while at gunpoint and crossed an irrigation ditch and into the neighborhood off W. Spencer Lane.
A perimeter was set up along First Avenue and Spencer Lane and a woman advised she saw a man walk to the east behind their wall. Campos was then later found in the woman’s backyard at about 4 p.m., hiding underneath her jacuzzi lid. When he was taken into custody, an investigator asked him about the shooting incident, but Campos allegedly said he pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination and requested an attorney.
Since the shotgun was not located on Campos, the deputy and other officers backtracked Campos’ believed area of travel and before long two unspent shotgun shells were located in a dumpster at an apartment complex across the street from the Newman Catholic Center at 3592 W. Fourth St., and a shotgun was found in the bushes next to the center. Shoeprints authorities believe match Campos’ footwear were located next to the shotgun and were photographed.
Additionally, the shotgun shells were less-then-lethal wax rounds that appeared to match the wax that was found at the crime scene, and the round located inside the shotgun had the initials “MC” written on it.
Evidence, including the shotgun and shells, will be sent to the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab for analysis.