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Tombstone authorities not upset with Dupnik comment
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Tombstone authorities not upset with Dupnik comment

  • Tombstone Marshal Billy Cloud says Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was 'overwrought with emotion' when he called Arizona the 'Tombstone of the United States.'
    James Bourland/Arizona-Sonora News ServiceTombstone Marshal Billy Cloud says Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was 'overwrought with emotion' when he called Arizona the 'Tombstone of the United States.'
  • Mayor Jack Henderson says no one in Tombstone is upset over Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s comments.
    James Bourland/Arizona-Sonora News ServiceMayor Jack Henderson says no one in Tombstone is upset over Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s comments.

Just hours after the Jan. 8 assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik addressed the media to explain the details of the shooting.

That's when the longtime law-enforcement official, who grew up in Bisbee, said he believed lax gun laws and violent political rhetoric contributed to the shootings, and he referred to Arizona as the "Tombstone of the United States."

While many felt his comment left Tombstone in a bad light, the town's marshal, Billy Cloud, said recently that he believed Dupnik was angry because his friend, U.S. Federal Judge John Roll, was one of the six people killed during the shooting spree. 

"I take that (the statement) in the context by which it was said," Cloud said. "People need to understand that John Roll was one of his best friends, and he and Gabby Giffords are very good friends. I take that in the way it was that he was overwrought with emotion over losing his buddy and the way it happened."

Tombstone Mayor Jack Henderson agreed. He said he was at first shocked by the comment, but after learning about the friendship between Roll and Dupnik, he believed that emotions got the best of Dupnik.

"There's so many connotations about Tombstone and what it means, I didn't quite understand his anguish," Henderson said. "I didn't realize that he personally knew folks there, and it's quite understandable with his grief. It wasn't worth taking offense over or anything else. It just happened."

Barbara Mathers, a school counselor in Tucson's Sunnyside School District, who deals with individual and group grief counseling, speculated that the immediate shock of the situation could have caused the sheriff to react in the only way he could to process his grief.

"I think anger has to play in it," Mathers said, saying that the emotion was just one of many stages a person could go through in a time of grief.

Mathers said she believed Dupnik's comments were "pure emotion coming from him, and he wasn't really thinking about the diplomatic or right thing to say in this instance. I think it was his true feelings, uncensored. He just let it out."

Though Dupnik's comment was less than complementary, Cloud said positives could come from the reference.

"Tombstone is known worldwide for having the Wild West culture, and it's what we sell, as far as the tourist trade," Cloud said, chuckling. "Quite frankly, it helped Tombstone. It brought us back to the spotlight. Even though he (Dupnik) was saying it in a negative light, any press is good press."

Still, Cloud said Dupnik is the chief law enforcement officer for Pima County, and all 15 county sheriffs in Arizona lead law enforcement for their counties, "so he needs to come back to a balance and realize that. I believe in having personal views, but he represents the citizens of Pima County."

Henderson said the very mention of the word Tombstone brings up a common connotation that drives tourists to the city. "The term Tombstone is the movie image," he said. "I think that's what he (Dupnik) is referring to, not the people of Tombstone. Nobody here is upset."

Henderson also pointed to a comment made by Gifford's husband, Mark Kelly, about "the town too tough to die".

"Gabrielle's husband has been quoted as stating that Gabrielle is tough like Tombstone, and we agree."

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