Crime and Courts Year in Review: Continuing Focus on Police Work, Bike Party Accident Shakes Flagstaff | Local
Police work in Flagstaff continued to develop in 2021 after the 2020 payroll was fueled by the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. City officials and department heads advocated transparency and pushed for systemic change.
The year also saw its share of serious crimes, including a high profile murder trial and the fatal accident at the Flag Bike Party that rocked the community.
Here are some of the biggest stories of 2021:
FPD starts monthly reports
The Flagstaff Police Department began publishing monthly crime statistics in January.
The reports, which were posted on the City of Flagstaff website, provided details of incidents that occurred in the previous month, including burglary, assault, arson, sexual offenses and more. It also provides a comparison with the averages for the previous year. This also included reports on traffic disruptions, patrols and service calls.
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Ministry officials said publishing the data increases transparency, helps with prevention, and helps identify evolving trends.
However, the department apparently stopped uploading additional reports after June without any explanation.
Flagstaff Police Chief Dan Musselman poses for a picture.
Jake Bacon, Ariz. Daily Sun
New head of the FPD
Dan Musselman was officially sworn in as head of the Flagstaff Police Department in early 2021.
The department veteran has held the position of interim boss since June 2020 when former boss Kevin Treadway retired. He was ultimately selected from 35 candidates.
Musselman has worked for FPD since 1995 and has been deputy chief of police since 2021. He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Northern Arizona University.
The new boss told the Arizona Daily Sun in January that he plans to continue his predecessor’s commitment to running an “ethical and competent department” with a renewed focus on transparency.
Upon joining the position, Musselman said he was well aware of the department’s key issues, including attracting skilled personnel, increasing the cost of police technology and increasing efficiency within the department.
Former candidate convicted of forgery
Victor Varela was sentenced to two years probation for forging hundreds of signatures in hopes of appearing for the Mayor of Flagstaff at the August 2020 primary.
Valera was initially charged with 12 different charges, but pleaded guilty to a single charge in a plea deal in April.
Victor Varela, a former Flagstaff mayoral candidate, addresses the judge at his hearing in the Coconino County Supreme Court in April 2021.
Rachel Gibbons, Arizona Daily Sun
Last year he admitted to the Arizona Daily Sun that he knowingly submitted the fraudulent signatures. The forged petition had more than 1,000 signatures, many with false names and addresses. More than 700 of the addresses used by Varela were not registered in the city’s map system, according to an analysis by the Daily Sun.
Varela claimed the COVID-19 restrictions prevented him from collecting the required signatures on the petition.
Two teachers charged with sex crimes
Two Flagstaff High School teachers were charged with sex crimes in 2021.
Walter Halaberda, a former FHS English teacher, allegedly touched inappropriately with students during a Zoom class in January. A recording of the incident later spread on social media, and Halaberda resigned shortly afterwards in May.
Then, former FHS business teacher Gregory Contreras was charged in July with a crime of luring a minor into sexual exploitation after an underage student reportedly told school administrators that he had sent them indecent messages on social media. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Contreras volunteered all of his teaching certificates in Arizona in April.
Tow truck drivers arrested in connection with the Flag Bike Party accident
A tow truck driver hit several cyclists during a bicycle safety ride in May, injured several drivers and killed 29-year-old Joanna “Jo” Wheaton.
Police say the driver – identified as a 58-year-old Normand Cloutier from California – ran over the red light as the cyclists crossed Butler Avenue and Beaver Streets. According to the authorities, the traffic light for the cyclists had already switched to green when they started to cross.
Cloutier was charged with causing death from a movement violation. The accident reverberated across the Flagstaff community, renewing continued pressure from locals to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and sparked conversations between elected officials to improve safety.
Cloutier was later tried on ten cases of sexual exploitation of a minor by a grand jury in Coconino County Superior Court in October after investigators said they found hundreds of pictures of child pornography on his phone during the investigation.
Both cases are still ongoing.
Cottonwood man indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol Violation
A Cottonwood man was charged with breaking into the US Capitol in costume on January 6th.
Federal prosecutors allege that 48-year-old Nathan Wayne Entrekin felt called upon by then-President Donald Trump to drive more than 2,200 miles to participate in the attack in Washington, DC Federal Court of Justice documents.
A screenshot found in court documents allegedly shows that Cottonwood’s Nathan Wayne Entrenik participated in the January 6th riot in the U.S. Capitol. Federal investigators say he recorded videos of the riots to show his mother.
He said in the video that he was disguised as Captain Moroni, a Book of Mormon military commander who raised armies to fight for freedom, as detailed by court documents. Officials said his costume was identical to that of a “Roman gladiator”.
Entrekin was arrested in Cottonwood in July and charged with two offenses related to the incident. He was later released into his mother’s care when the case was heard in federal court.
City adopts alternative reaction model
Flagstaff City Council approved a $ 2.5 million contract with Terros Health to deploy a mobile alternative response unit.
The move reflects the move that dozens of authorities across the country have taken as cities seek to reduce the number of non-crime calls – such as being better equipped to handle those calls.
The mobile task force is expected to reduce the number of calls handled by Flagstaff’s fire and police departments by 5-10%.
However, service providers said during a town hall in September that the city’s plan requires clearer focus and more input from local experts, as well as a greater emphasis on housing solutions.
City officials said the unit is expected to start operating in early 2022.
Timothy Duran speaks to attorney Greg Parzych after a jury found Duran guilty of first degree murder in the death of his wife Crystal Morgan in this 2021 file photo.
Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun File
Doney Park man convicted of knife stabbing
Doney Park’s Timothy Duran was convicted in October, after a brief trial, of killing his wife in front of his children.
Duran, 41, stabbed his wife, 35-year-old Crystal Morgan, with a screwdriver and a carving fork in March 2019. She was found dead on a neighbor’s lawn a few minutes after calling 911.
The defense did not argue that Duran was innocent, but that the killing was not premeditated.
A jury found Duran guilty of first degree murder, double assault, and a variety of other charges after less than two hours of deliberation.
Duran is now facing life imprisonment. He is being held without bail in Coconino County Detention Center until he is sentenced on January 6.
Mark Gooch convicted of the murder of a teacher
A jury found 22-year-old Mark Gooch guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Sasha Krause after a high-level trial.
The Coconino County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than six hours for two days before pronouncing the guilty verdict against the former US Air Force aviator. He was stationed at Luke Air Force Base prior to his arrest.
Prosecutors said Gooch traveled more than seven hours to kidnap 27-year-old Krause from her Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico. Her body was found a month later by a camper searching for firewood in the area of the Sunset Volcano Crater National Monument.
However, Gooch’s attorney Bruce Griffen argued that there was little forensic evidence linking Gooch to Krause. He was eventually linked to the crime using cell phone and financial records in addition to surveillance footage.
His sentencing is scheduled for January 19th. Gooch faces life imprisonment.
Mark Gooch sits under a portrait of Sasha Krause during the prosecution’s opening arguments on the first day of Gooch’s trial for first degree murder in Sasha Krause’s death in September.
Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun File
Reporter Bree Burkitt can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @breeburkitt.
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