By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – An incident that escalated into a man being pepper sprayed with a law-enforcement grade product Sunday has police requesting prosecutors charge the alleged attacker with assault.
Officers were initially dispatched at about 2:14 p.m. to Main Street and Central Avenue to locate a fleeing suspect, identified as Francisco Rojo, who allegedly had sprayed a victim with pepper spray. Rojo is also an investigative lead regarding a criminal damage call in which a van’s tires were slashed while parked outside of a local bar.
According to the reporting party, the victim and his girlfriend were pulling up to the victim’s sister’s disabled van when they saw Rojo walk by the vehicle and start “flipping off” the van’s owner. The victim followed Rojo to the Thriftee Food & Drug parking lot at 755 S. Central Ave. The victim admitted getting out of his vehicle to confront Rojo about the damage to the van and hand gesture.
At that time, Rojo allegedly produced a bottle of Sabre pepper spray and unloaded into the victim’s face. Rojo then ran from the scene and was not immediately located. The victim’s version of events was corroborated by his girlfriend. A bottle of pepper spray was found discarded on a pathway between the 9th Street alley and S. Central Avenue, where Rojo had fled past. An attempt to locate was broadcast for Rojo but to no avail.
On Wednesday, an officer made contact with Rojo at his residence and informed him about the assault accusation. Rojo recalled that the victim “rolled up on him” and he acted in self-defense. Rojo said he believed the victim had a knife in his hand and that is why he pepper sprayed him. He also denied slashing the van’s tires.
The reports were forwarded to the Graham County Attorney’s Office for review.