BISBEE — There was no criminal behavior between Bisbee’s former animal control officer, a videographer and three policemen the day they all clashed at a public park, the county attorney said.
In a two-paragraph letter sent this week to Bisbee Police Chief Albert Echave, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre said he could not find “probable cause for any offense” regarding the June 10 encounter between former animal control officer Dolores Luberto and a videographer for a the Bisbee News Network blog.
The incident between the pair resulted in three Bisbee police officers responding to the park, taking the videographer to the ground and handcuffing him. Most of the skirmish appeared on two videos posted to YouTube. The resident who initially called Luberto to the park also recorded part of the episode on her phone.
The row erupted when the videographer began recording Luberto after she responded to a citizen’s call about a rabid and injured skunk at the park’s tennis courts. Luberto appeared to become agitated when she saw the videographer and asked him to leave, the video shows.
The videographer refused, telling Luberto that he was in a public place and did not have to leave. Luberto then advanced toward him, the video shows, while also calling for backup on her radio, saying that an individual was interfering with her investigation.
When a dispatcher attempted to call Luberto back on her radio, she never responded, leading officers to believe she was in trouble, according to a police investigation. The officers responded and confronted the videographer. When he protested that he was doing nothing wrong, they took him to the ground and handcuffed him.
The police department opened an internal investigation after officials saw the YouTube video and noticed that it differed from Luberto’s statement on what occurred at the park. They said Luberto had been untruthful and placed her on paid administrative leave. She eventually resigned.
Echave had said he wanted an outside agency to look at the investigation and he sent it to McIntyre’s office to determine if any violations had occurred.
“I am unable to conclude there is probable cause for any offense occurring during the initial encounter or subsequent to it,” McIntyre wrote in his Sept. 17 letter to Echave. “Much of criminal law focuses on intent and perception. In order to proceed in any criminal prosecution, we must have a reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
“In this particular investigation, the intent and perception of everyone involved has been subject of much public scrutiny, separate from the investigation itself.”
McIntyre went on to say that the encounter among all those involved was based on perceptions.
“ACO Luberto radioed for assistance based upon her perception of the actions of (the videographer),” McIntyre said. “(The videographer) was acting consistent with his perception of what was or was not a ‘safe’ area to be in while documenting the actions of the ACO. The officers responded to ACO Luberto’s radio call based on their perception of urgency in her transmission and need for immediate action.”
”(The videographer) did not acquiesce to the responding officers’ commands or to ACO Luberto’s previous commands based upon his perceptions of what was or was not ‘right’ or allowable; and the citation issued to him has already been dismissed. The events that unfolded based upon all of these competing ‘perceptions’ were unfortunate, but not criminal for any of those involved, based upon the information presented for review.”