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Man shot by ATF was convicted for role in meth ring a decade ago

The Avra Valley man who was injured in a shooting by an ATF agent serving an arrest warrant Thursday was convicted in 2006 for his ties to a violent drug ring. Chris Paul Snow served four years in prison for racketeering related to a gang that authorities said committed homicides, kidnappings and other crimes.

Chris Paul Snow, now 65 years old, was tried in 2006 along with 13 others for his leading role in a group that sold methamphetamine in Tucson.

Thursday around 5 a.m., Snow was shot as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were arresting him for federal firearms violations at his home on North Antelope Road, between North Trico and North Anway roads.

Snow's injuries were not considered to be life-threatening, and no one else was hurt in the incident, a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokesman said. Snow was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Snow was indicted by a federal grand jury last week for possessing 49 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, and a "sting-ball" grenade.

Snow's list of prior felonies includes the 2006 Arizona conviction for conducting a criminal enterprise, as well as a 2003 federal felony for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two 1996 drug cases in Pima County.

Contemporary news reports, court and Arizona Department of Corrections records show that Snow was alleged by authorities to be a ringleader  — along with Michael Wadle —of a drug gang that committed homicides, kidnappings and drive-by shootings, as well as forgery, burglary and theft.

From a 2005 Tucson Citizen story about the murder of one member of the meth ring:

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Snow, Wadle and a dozen others allegedly involved in the ring are charged under state laws related to racketeering, or illegally conducting a criminal enterprise, a new approach by prosecutors to quash what authorities say is an epidemic in metro Tucson.

Some in law enforcement say the emergence of the Snow-Wadle ring marked the beginning of a violent era in metro Tucson as the highly addictive drug gained a foothold here. Addicts and dealers were desperate to feed their habit and committed a broad range of crimes, including mail fraud, identity theft, forgery, homicide and other violent crimes.

***

Violence was at the core of the Snow-Wadle ring, according to law enforcement documents. The two used it to enforce loyalty and silence in the group.

During the four years that local and federal agents investigated the group, court papers say its members committed kidnappings and drive-by shootings and led investigators on car chases that injured bystanders. They also allegedly committed forgery, fraud, burglary and theft, contributing to Tucson leading the nation in property crimes the last three years.

A Tucson Citizen review of police and court records, obtained through public records requests and an examination of federal court records, reveals that as many as 80 people may have been drawn into the ring's sphere by their meth addiction.

Citizen reporter Eric Sagara wrote about a case related to Snow's ring — his daughter, Christina George, shot a member of the group through the neck in April 2001 during a drug dispute. That woman, Jasmine Holland, survived, but was murdered three months later, allegedly to keep her from testifying against the meth-dealing group:

Shooting Holland was not George's first exposure to violence. A former boyfriend is on death row for the 1995 kidnapping and killing of Michael Jeffrey Ellis, 26, over a meth debt. Another boyfriend, Brian Stacey Birenbaum, 30, killed himself in front of George, a friend and a sheriff's deputy in June 2000, after a routine traffic stop. Deputies at the time said he was under investigation for a "serious crime" that would have sent him back to prison.

George, now 33, who claimed she accidentally shot Holland, is in prison until 2025 for that assault and other charges related to her involvement with her father's alleged ring.

On July 17, 2001, Pascua Yaqui police found Holland's shot and burned body in the desert on the far Southwest Side, before Holland could testify against George and another man in her April shooting. Authorities then dropped attempted murder charges against the man.

***

Police considered many in the ring to be white supremacists. Some, such as Dawn Johnson, 38, who is charged with kidnapping in the case, and Christina George, have tattoos indicating white supremacist affiliations, according to court records.

***

By 2004, the days of the group were numbered.

Arrested on various local and federal charges several times during the course of the investigation, Snow and most of the others were rounded up on charges related to alleged operations from November 2004 to February.

When arrested, some, including Wadle – who is serving a federal sentence on weapons violations, already were in custody or serving sentences on other charges.

***

Just what role, if any, Jasmine Holland played in the ring's downfall remains unclear from court records.

Two men are in prison on charges related to her killing: Theodore Charles Johnson, 29, and her ex-boyfriend, Robert Baynes Davis, 30.

In the second week of Johnson's March 2004 trial, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

He was arrested for Holland's murder in October of 2001 while in jail on weapons charges. According to court records, he had been injecting 14 grams of meth a day. A typical dose of meth is a quarter of a gram, though addicts quickly up the amount and frequency they take the drug.

Davis is serving five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to kidnap Holland. He is expected to be released in 2008.

According to court records, in early July, Johnson and Davis picked up Holland from where she was living, hoping to talk her out of testifying against members of the ring.

It's not clear if they were working at Snow's or Wadle's direction or on their own.

Johnson shot Holland in the back of the head when Davis pulled the car over to smoke meth, according to court records. Johnson wanted Davis to shoot Holland as well, but Davis refused.

For reasons not explained in court records, the two drove around Tucson with Holland's body in the front passenger seat, a hat perched atop her head covering the gaping wound, then drove to the desert and dumped the car, setting it and Holland's body on fire. Pascua Yaqui officers discovered the body two weeks later.

Johnson denies killing Holland, but told court officials he deserved to die for his role in her death.

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"Even though I didn't pull the trigger, I'm just as guilty as whoever did," he said. "What really happened to Jasmine Holland, no one will ever know the truth."

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