Possible mentally ill man causes a disturbance at Safford City Hall, attacks officer

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Safford City Hall Clerks were witness to a traumatic situation Wednesday when a man who allegedly caused a disturbance fought with an officer and was injured.

Officer uses TASER, pepper spray to subdue man during the tussle 

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – A Safford Police officer utilized his TASER weapon and pepper spray and still had to physically restrain a suspect who caused a disturbance at Safford City Hall on Wednesday, and allegedly attacked an officer. 

Sylvester Sanchez, 54, who is believed to have a mental deficiency, was arrested and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. Sanchez was first treated at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for a head laceration and received seven staples before being medically cleared for the jail. 

According to Safford Police reports, Sanchez was well-known to the clerks at City Hall and that he regularly visited with complaints. One clerk said the status quo was to try to pacify him and keep him calm until he leaves. On Wednesday morning, however, that was easier said than done and Sanchez allegedly was out of hand with the office workers. The clerk reported that Sanchez was acting more irrationally than usual and she suspected he might be off his prescribed medications.  

After Sanchez demanded to see Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman – who was in a meeting and was not available – a clerk called the Safford Police Department and an officer was sent to handle the situation. 

Upon arrival, the officer requested Sanchez step outside to talk with him and, initially, Sanchez complied. Soon after, however, he began to walk back toward City Hall and the officer instructed not to do so and put his hand on Sanchez’s shoulder. At that time, Sanchez allegedly threw a stainless steel coffee mug at the officer, hitting him in the chest and then bum-rushed him. 

The two men began fighting and the officer reported seeing Sanchez had a silver folding knife clipped to his belt. The officer then drew his TASER and attempted to deploy it but it misfired due to not have a cartridge loaded. 

Sanchez then attacked again and the officer reported striking the TASER’s handle on Sanchez’s head. Still, the suspect continued to attempt to re-enter City Hall even as employees tried to lock the doors. 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Sylvester Sanchez was booked into the jail on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

The officer then deployed pepper spray as Sanchez entered the building. Sanchez then allegedly began to attack the officer again, and the officer drew his baton and struck Sanchez in his leg twice. The officer then tackled Sanchez to the ground and wrestled with him. The officer reported feeling Sanchez attempt to pull his gun from its holster. The officer managed to keep Sanchez at bay and when backup arrived the suspect was handcuffed and taken into custody. 

Officers who arrived after learning of the scuffle reported smelling the pepper spray in the building as office workers coughed due to their secondary exposure. One officer reported seeing the initial officer straddling Sanchez while ordering him to put his hands behind his back as a “large pool” of blood puddled under Sanchez’s head. 

When asked what had caused him to act in such a manner, Sanchez allegedly said he was upset about not being able to get paperwork from City Hall (he was told he would have to visit the Graham County Superior Court Clerk’s Office) and that he threw the coffee and mug at the officer because the officer annoyed him.   

Sanchez was previously charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest in August 2015 but the assault charge was dismissed and while he was found guilty for resisting arrest it appears, from online court records, that his conviction was vacated and his civil rights were restored.  

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