Pima County Constable, 3 others killed at scene of eviction Thursday
Constable Deborah Martinez, 3 others dead after gunfire during eviction at North Side complex that was site of previous shooting
Pima County Constable Deborah Martinez and three other people were killed as she was serving an eviction order at an apartment on Tucson's North Side on Thursday, officials and her husband confirmed.
"It's just unreal, for someone to do that to another person," her husband Gabriel Garibay told the Tucson Sentinel. "I'm still trying to put it together. It seems like it's unreal, I'm still thinking that it's a joke somewhere, but it's just a way to describe it. I don't know how to explain it."
Around midday, Martinez was serving an eviction notice at an apartment in Lind Commons, near North Palo Verde Avenue and East Fort Lowell Road, when shots were fired.
Tucson police said around 4 p.m. that they were conducting a "homicide investigation" at that location, but said "out of respect for those involved we cannot confirm any names or details until next of kin has been notified."
Among the other dead are the man who sparked the violent confrontation, along with a female employee of the apartment complex and a fourth person, Tucson Police Department Sgt. Richard Gradillas said around 6:30 p.m.
Earlier, sources had told the Sentinel that Martinez and two others had been killed. Gradillas provided an update around 5:50 p.m., saying that a total of four people were dead in the incident.
In addition to her husband, sources with knowledge of the incident had earlier also confirmed to the Tucson Sentinel that Martinez was dead. They requested anonymity due to pressure from top local government leaders to not disclose information about the fatal incident. The identities of the other three people who died were not yet confirmed, but authorities will likely release their names on Friday.
Court records show that an eviction order was to be served on Gavin Lee Stansell at 3493 E. Lind Rd. A hearing in that case was held Monday, with the order issued the next day, Pima County Justice Court records showed. According to a court filing by the landlord's attorney, Stansell had earlier threatened another resident of the apartment complex with a gun.
Online court records show no prior criminal offenses by Stansell, who has only a traffic ticket from Marana indicated in searches of his name among local and state courts.
TPD's Gradillas declined to confirm that the dead male suspect was Stansell. He would not confirm statements by residents, made to the Sentinel, that an AR-15-type rifle had been used by the shooter.
The complex, previously known as Palo Verde Terrace, has been the scene of previous violent incidents, including a January 2022 drug-related shooting that left a man hospitalized. Seventeen 9mm bullet casings were found at the scene of that incident.
Sources have told the Sentinel that the apartment complex has been the site of at least several overdose deaths in recent years.
Thursday afternoon, more than a dozen local law enforcement officers were at the apartments, and the SWAT team had been called out earlier, with about 100 officers initially responding. TPD officers were not involved in the incident while shooting took place, Gradillas said, but responded to a "shots fired" call.
Martinez's Ford F-150 remained at the scene Thursday afternoon, with a small "Constable" sign on the door.
Just after 6 p.m., law enforcement officers formed a guard of honor and escorted Martinez's body away from the area, with motorcycle officers and other police vehicles moving in a line with lights flashing.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff on Friday, August 26, in honor of the "innocent lives lost" in the deadly incident, noting Martinez's military service and dedication to her constable position.
Investigators from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner were at the scene Thursday afternoon and evening.
Martinez was appointed as a constable, responsible for serving court papers such as evictions and orders of protection, in March 2022, filling a vacancy left by the resignation of Constable Kristen Randall. Martinez was seeking to continue in her post by being elected in her Midtown precinct, despite being under investigation by the Arizona Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board for allegations of potential felony fraud, forgery, perjury and tampering with public records.
A Tucson native and Pueblo High School graduate, Martinez retired from U.S. Army intelligence after multiple tours in Afghanistan and serving for 16 years.
Martinez, 43, is survived by her husband, Gabriel Garibay, and 22-year-old daughter Ryane Martinez.
"Two years ago we lost our six-year-old, and today my daughter called me crying," Garibay told the Sentinel, in a raspy voice on the edge of tears himself. "She wouldn't tell me why she was crying, but I got here to my in-law's (house), that's when she told me."
"We just keep putting in prayers and we're trying to figure out what's going on. Deborah was, there's no words to put it, how grateful she was, taking care of other people's needs. We're just trying to figure out what's going on," he said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
Sharon Bronson, chair of the Board of Supervisors, offered "deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Precinct 8 Constable Deborah Martinez, who was killed today in the line of duty," on behalf of her fellow supervisors and other county employees.
"Our county constables perform a difficult and important job for the people of this county," said Bronson. "They often encounter people at their most vulnerable and emotional, yet they all perform their duties with professionalism and compassion. I am heartbroken at this terrible tragedy and I will keep Constable Martinez and all who knew and loved her in my thoughts."
Under state law, Martinez will be replaced on the November general election ballot by a candidate chosen by the Pima County Democratic Party.
Turmoil in Constables Office
The newest constable had been serving in the precinct that "rebel eviction enforcer" Randall left when she resigned in late January, citing a "great divide" in the office.
A Democrat, Martinez was set to face one of her fellow constables, Republican Bill Lake, in the November election, Lake, who was also appointed to fill a vacancy, had his current East Side precinct combined with the Midtown justice precinct by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year. The elimination of the precinct was due to the workload of the Constables Office, the supervisors said.
The Pima County Constables Office has had several controversies in recent years. Constable Oscar Vasquez was suspended last year by the Board of Supervisors after the CESTB urged him to resign.
Vasquez, in JP 4 on the West Side, was suspended for six months from July to December after he refused to carry out an eviction of a mother and her children, despite a court order, and for a pattern of misbehavior including speeding in a county vehicle, and following and yelling at someone who almost hit his car.
George Camacho, constable for JP 9 on the South Side, also faced a review by the state's Constables Ethics Standards and Training Board following complaints that he threatened former constable Joe Ferguson late last year at a South Tucson bar. For his part, Camacho filed an order of protection against Ferguson, claiming he had been harassed by him.
Ferguson, a former reporter for the Arizona Daily Star and now a member of TucsonSentinel.com's Board of Directors, was appointed as a constable in January 2020 and faced Camacho during the Democratic primary later that year.
"This is separate from the other complaint regarding the posting of simulated eviction notices," wrote Mark Napier, then an assistant county administrator and the former Pima County sheriff, in a memo to the Board of Supervisors on January 20. "This matter is potentially criminal," Napier wrote, adding that the complaint was sent to Maricopa County to clear the county of potential conflicts of interest.
Around the 2020 election, Camacho was prohibited from carrying a firearm by a Superior Court judge after he was accused of harassing a woman who worked in the Constables Office on multiple occasions.