Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor faces possible assault charges over actions during heroin overdose incident

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor may face assault charges for his actions while in a “hypoxic” state during a recent drug overdose.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – Charges of assault/domestic violence and aggravated assault on a healthcare worker against Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor are pending review by prosecutors.

Taylor was also a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Representative CD-1, currently held by Tom O’Halleran (D). On Monday, Taylor suspended his campaign. He has since also resigned from his position on the Safford Fire Department and taken a medical leave of absence from the Safford City Council.

“Today, I have suspended my campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives and am seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder,” Taylor wrote to the Gila Herald. “I will fully cooperate with local authorities on any matters arising from my recent relapse and overdose. Please respect the privacy of my wife and children as we deal with this situation. 

I’m not going to hide from this. I’m not ashamed of what happened. I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me. I don’t know what went wrong. I recently relapsed after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong. Thankfully, I have every resource available to me through the Veterans Affairs Administration and I have the strongest support system one could dream of. My family stands behind me 100 percent and I feel the love and prayers of our amazing Gila Valley community. I haven’t been able to respond to each of you yet, but I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have reached out to me in love and understanding. 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Chris Taylor: Chris Taylor served two tours of combat duty in Afghanistan before returning home to Safford and founding Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery, a nonprofit organization that was dedicated to helping individuals – especially fellow combat veterans – suffering from drug addiction.

The only thing I can do is face this head-on in complete humility and put one foot in front of the other so that I can get the help needed to be the father and husband that my family deserves. I’m human, and I have never pretended to be anything but. I know that through the grace of my loving Savior, Jesus Christ, I will be restored back to full health and bounce back from this and be stronger than ever.” 

The possible assault charges stem from Taylor’s alleged actions while under the influence of narcotics and being in a “hypoxic” state, according to a Safford Police report.

Taylor was found unresponsive in his home by his wife on  Wednesday around 10:30 p.m. after he reportedly injected heroin. His wife called 911 for assistance and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which brought Taylor back to consciousness but he appeared to not be coherent, according to the wife’s reported statements to police.

She said Taylor became combative and when a paramedic with Lifeline Ambulance arrived, he “shoved her” and closed the door. The wife advised that she did not wish to pursue charges against Taylor, however, the officer advised that in this case, the state could pursue charges of assault/domestic violence on her behalf.  

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Chris Taylor: Chris Taylor announced Monday that he is suspending his campaign for Congress to seek treatment for substance abuse disorder.

According to the paramedic, Taylor’s wife was holding their infant child during the interaction. The paramedic then ran to the door and forced it open, upon which he reported seeing Taylor and his wife engaged with each other.

The paramedic, who also serves on the Safford Police Department, advised he stepped in front of Taylor’s wife and “forced” Taylor into the wall behind the door. Taylor then swung back at the paramedic, who grabbed Taylor’s neck and tackled him to the ground.

Once on the ground, the paramedic used leg and arm hooks to gain control of Taylor and held him down with the help of his partner until the arrival of an on-duty Safford officer, who placed Taylor in handcuffs. Taylor was then chemically sedated and taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for treatment, according to the police report.

A plastic syringe with apparent heroin residue was located inside the residence, along with a small baggie with a small amount of what appeared to be heroin. Taylor’s wife advised that Taylor had relapsed last year and that after Christmas she noticed some finances were missing, according to her reported statements to police.

She also advised that after she noticed the missing money, she installed a hidden camera in the bathroom and that she has a video of Taylor using the drug. Officers later viewed the footage and saw Taylor enter the bathroom on a date in January and apparently prepare a syringe of heroin and inject himself into his leg.

Arizona Revised Statute 13-1204 advises that any assault against a paramedic engaged in his or her duties is automatically classified as an aggravated assault. While possible assault charges are pending review by prosecutors, Taylor will likely not face any charges relating to his possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia due to Arizona’s Good Samaritan Law, which protects victims and others who call for assistance during an overdose.

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3423 deals with the prohibited prosecution of Good Samaritans. It states, “A person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone who is experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged or prosecuted for the possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia or a preparatory offense if the evidence for the violation was gained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”

 Section B continues, “A person who experiences a drug-related overdose, who is in need of medical assistance and for whom medical assistance is sought pursuant to subsection A of this section may not be charged or prosecuted for the possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia if the evidence for the violation was gained as a result of the person’s overdose and need for medical assistance.

Taylor was interviewed by police later on at the hospital after he became coherent. During the interview, Taylor advised that the last thing he remembered was shooting up in the bathroom and seizing. He didn’t have any memory of the actions that happened during the interaction with the paramedic or police.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Chris Taylor: Chris Taylor told the Gila Herald he would take responsibility for his actions and move forward with his recovery.

After being released from the Emergency Room, Taylor went to a detox center in Benson. On Monday, he contacted the Gila Herald and advised that he was taking responsibility for his actions and that he would also be checking into a Phoenix VA rehab.

“I’ve been here before and know the way out,” he said. “What I have to figure out is why I relapsed after being so solid in recovery for nearly seven years. I’m not ashamed and won’t hide from this. I want to stand tall and admit that I need help again to recover.” 

After beating his addiction the first time, Taylor founded Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery, a nonprofit organization that was dedicated to helping individuals – especially fellow combat veterans – suffering from drug addiction. Taylor ran the nonprofit as executive director for four years. In 2016, Taylor ran for the Safford City Council and received the most votes of the four various candidates for the three open seats. In May 2019, he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Rep. CD-1, currently held by Tom O’Halleran (D).

“My life had changed so much,” Taylor said. “I was certain all of this was way behind me. But, obviously, I was blindsided. I’m lucky to be alive. If it wasn’t for the quick actions of my amazing wife and the hero first responders I wouldn’t be alive. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.” 

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