• Background check for guns at Mo Money Pawn Shop

    Background check for guns at Mo Money Pawn Shop

  • Aaron Juan Saucedo appears before judge

    Aaron Juan Saucedo appears before judge

  • Reporter Megan Cassidy on Phoenix 'Serial Street Shooter' arrest

    Reporter Megan Cassidy on Phoenix ‘Serial Street Shooter’ arrest

  • Phoenix police arrest suspect in 'Serial Street Shooter' case

    Phoenix police arrest suspect in ‘Serial Street Shooter’ case

  • 911 call: The latest Phoenix 'serial street shooter' victim calm after shooting

    911 call: The latest Phoenix ‘serial street shooter’ victim calm after shooting

  • Maryvale resident talks about violence

    Maryvale resident talks about violence

  • 911 call: The first attack attributed to the 'serial street shooter'

    911 call: The first attack attributed to the ‘serial street shooter’

  • 911 call: The second 'serial street shooter' incident

    911 call: The second ‘serial street shooter’ incident

  • 'Serial street shooter' case

    ‘Serial street shooter’ case

  • Law enforcement asks for public help in serial shooter case

    Law enforcement asks for public help in serial shooter case

  • Neighbor comments on 'serial street shooter'

    Neighbor comments on ‘serial street shooter’

  • Maryvale community meeting

    Maryvale community meeting

  • 'We just don't know why they did it'

    ‘We just don’t know why they did it’

  • Police: 5 west Phoenix homicides likely connected

    Police: 5 west Phoenix homicides likely connected

  • Phoenix police seek public help to solve string of murders

    Phoenix police seek public help to solve string of murders

Authorities have released almost no information about why they believe Aaron Juan Saucedo is the ‘Serial Street Shooter.’

A coalition of Arizona news organizations is challenging a judge’s order that keeps secret the documents justifying the arrest of Aaron Juan Saucedo, the man Phoenix police say is the “Serial Street Shooter,” who killed nine people over the past two years.

In Arizona, such documents are almost uniformly available to the public after an arrest.

Saucedo, 23, was already in jail in connection with a 2015 murder when he was booked Monday on suspicion of the string of street shootings in 2016.

The next day, after Saucedo professed his innocence to a judge, a county prosecutor filed a motion to seal the documents about that arrest.

David Bodney, an attorney for The Arizona Republic and other outlets, said in a motion Friday that the case is one of “acute public interest.” He said the media have a legal right to intervene in the case to argue the sealing and that the public has a right to see the court records. 

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has defended his office’s motion, saying the case is still under investigation. 

When police announced their conclusion that Saucedo was the Serial Street Shooter, they said only that a “host” of evidence connected him to the crimes, including ballistics, forensic evidence and surveillance.

But as of the end of the week, police and prosecutors had still said essentially nothing about what that evidence was.

That has left some questioning whether Saucedo is receiving the same due process as other suspects — and whether there’s more the community ought to know about the case.

“The public is intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions,” DeeDee Garcia Blase told The Republic on Friday. She is co-founder of Somos Independents, an organization of Mexican-American female leaders, which has separately been raising questions about Saucedo’s arrest.

“More importantly,” she said, “if there is more than one suspect, the people of Maryvale and Phoenix should not let their guard down if there are others associated.” 

Saucedo, already facing the 2015 murder case, was accused this week of eight more homicides, the ones previously identified as Street Shooter cases in Maryvale and elsewhere. 

As he faced a total of 26 related charges in court, he told the judge only, “I’m innocent.” 

A public document

Arrests are typically followed by the court’s release of what’s known as a Form IV, which provides basic information about probable cause and other details of the arrest. The public record is typically available before the defendant is officially charged.

Instead, on Tuesday, Deputy County Attorney Patricia Stevens filed a motion to seal the Form IV in the rebooking of Saucedo.

Serial street shootings

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy granted the state’s motion, ordering that any portion of a criminal complaint or indictment that included information from the Form IV be sealed. 

Prosecutors wrote that Saucedo’s Form IV “contains information regarding ongoing investigations and also lists the true name and additional information of under-aged victims.” 

The motion did not explain why this rationale would require sealing the document rather than redacting sensitive information. McCoy also did not explain his reasoning for ordering the seal. 

Bodney said his motion to intervene was for the specific purpose of receiving an order to unseal the Form IV. Bodney is representing The Republic, as well as ABC15, KTVK 3TV, KPHO CBS 5, the Associated Press, Telemundo of Arizona and KPNX-TV, Channel 12. 

The motion argues that withholding the document violates Arizona’s law concerning the public’s right of access to court records, and that the public has a “strong presumptive right of access to court records under the First Amendment.” 

If there is sensitive information in the Form IV, such as the identity of a confidential informant or a suspect at large, Bodney said that information can legally be redacted rather than withholding the entire document. 

Montgomery offered little more explanation when asked about the legal grounds to withhold the public records. 

“That information, at this point in time, should not be made public because it is an ongoing investigation,” he said at his bi-weekly press conference Tuesday.

When asked if a Form IV’s release meant that an investigation is not ongoing, Montgomery demurred.

“The opposite should not be assumed,” he said, without offering clarification. 

When pressed on why this case was different when the public generally had access to court document, Montgomery replied, “In general you do, and sometimes those Form IV’s are still redacted or, at times, depending on the nature of the investigation, they may be sealed.” 

The news organizations’ motion is scheduled be argued Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court.

‘A lack of transparency’

Lydia Hernandez, a former state representative, has called for more transparency in the investigation. 

Hernandez and the Somos Independents group released a statement this week asking for a summary of the investigation.

They said they had concerns about the shielding of information, especially given the recent case of Leslie Merritt Jr.  He was held on suspicion of several freeway shootings in a separate, high-profile case in 2015, but charges were dismissed. 

Merritt had spent several months in jail prior to his release, and he is now pursuing a multi-million dollar civil suit against the state. 

“There was a rush to judgment on the freeway shooter incident and we want to make sure that mistake does not happen again,” the group said in a statement. 

With regard to Saucedo, Hernandez and Somos Independents have additional questions about the pawn shop where police say he sold a gun linked to the first murder, and about how Saucedo is being treated by the legal system. They raised concerns about whether Saucedo had yet received a public defender for the additional charges. 

“We hope to have answers to these burning questions that will help the community know and be confident that the right man being accused is in jail,” their statement read. “Now that records have been sealed with a lack of transparency, we may not ever know the answers to these questions.”


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions


Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2qCf5xk