PHOENIX (TheBlaze/AP) — A detention officer with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office died Thursday after being shot in the driveway of his Arizona home while he prepared to head to work. Now, all officers in the department are being armed with rifles by the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio for added protection.
Jorge Vargas, 27, was rushed to a hospital after the 4 a.m. attack and died a short time later, Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said.
No one was in custody yet and there was no information on a motive.
“It’s really a whodunit,” Crump said, adding that investigators are looking into whether the shooting was connected to the victim’s job.
“Anytime we have a homicide and the suspect is unknown, we start with our victim,” Crump said. “But we can’t rule out a random act.”
AZ Family reported neighbor Elise Contento saying disturbances aren’t uncommon in their area.
“I heard three gunshots,” Contento told AZ Family. “When I came out the front door, I heard a bunch of dogs barking …. I knew something had happened. … (I thought) here we go again.”
Vargas was an eight-year veteran who worked for the Sheriff’s Office Custody Support Bureau in the jail’s food factory, but he often came into contact with inmates, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
He wouldn’t speculate about whether Vargas’ killing may have been related to his work, but said his office was assisting Phoenix police in the investigation, including gathering intelligence from the jails.
“I won’t call it an assassination or an execution,” the sheriff who is well-known for his efforts against illegal immigration said. “Right now, I’ll call it a murder.”
Arpaio did, however, have a warning for the killer.
“Watch out,” he said. “We’re ready for battle and we’re going to take whatever action we need.”
KSAZ-TV reported that Arpaio is also taking extra measures to ensure the safety of officers — he’s issuing them AR-15-style rifles:
Arpaio says the rifles will ensure his officers are safe when faced with increasingly and more powerful weapons in the hands of criminals.
He says that each of his patrol deputies must carry a firearm with them at all times to be able to combat crime even when they aren’t on duty.
“My deputies will carry guns 24 hours a day, even off duty. If they see any incident occurring, they will take action anywhere in this valley.”
“We live in a violent society, even here in Maricopa County, and across our nation, and the least we can do is to arm our deputies, let’s say with enough firepower to fight back.”
The rifles, according to KSAZ, were paid for with money seized during arrests.
Vargas was wearing his uniform that identified him as a Sheriff’s Office employee at the time of the attack and was in his driveway working on his car when he was shot.
Watch AZ Central’s report about the incident:
Tactical teams and K-9 units searched the area, but so far police had no suspects.
AZ Family reported that Vargas was the father if a 5-year-old son.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.