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Photos: Paul Ingram's picks for TucsonSentinel.com's best pictures of 2020

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Scott Warren, right, and his lawyer Greg Kuykendall laugh with relief outside of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Tucson on Feb. 27, 2020. - Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

More by Paul Ingram

It's become a cliché to say that 2020 was a hard year, but 2020 was a hard year. It was hard because of COVID-19, but also there was the heated summer of fury and resilience following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement here, the outcry over the death of a 27-year-old man while in the custody of Tucson police (and the revelation of another TPD death that was also withheld from the public), the continued construction of the border wall in protected wilderness, and a massive wildfire that seared across the Santa Catalina Mountains.

In late February, prosecutors decided to drop charges filed against Scott Warren, a geology professor who was charged with two counts of human smuggling two years earlier. Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, faced two jury trials in 2019 and each time the 12 men and women refused to convict him. By Feb. 27, prosecutors moved to dismiss the last charge against Warren, effectively ending the case.

Outside the courthouse, Warren spoke to a crowd of supporters along with his lawyers Greg Kuykendall and Amy Knight, and after the press conference, the two men shared a quick grin. This small moment captured with my iPhone became one of my favorite images for the year.

By April, there were early signs of COVID-19 infections inside the U.S. prison system and privately run detention facilities. One group went so far as to call the potential outbreaks "tinderboxes," and on April 10, several dozen people drove to Eloy and held a socially-distanced, car-based protest. This image struck me the instant it was made.

In May, the reality of COVID-19 had settled in, but people were still trying to find entertainment and a sense of community, and at the Tucson Speedway dozens of people parked on the track at the impromptu drive-thru to watch "Days of Thunder..

Furious about the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer, hundreds took to the Tucson's street a few days later.

Though largely peaceful, the protests also included acts of vandalism and violence, and the crowd simmered outside the TPD headquarters Downtown. For a moment, members of the crowd threatened to turn on journalists, arguing that the reporters and photographers at the scene were "part of the problem." One reporter had her phone snatched out of her hand, while a photographer was attacked and hit repeatedly and some of his gear was stolen.

This made the protest, already a dark and chaotic moment, even more difficult. And, the reporters and photographers had to keep their eye on the crowd and the phalanx of police who were clad in riot gear. Several protestors went up to talk to police officers, and this man, who ditched his shirt and became even more vulnerable, tried to repeatedly engage individual police officers. His vulnerability against the armored police officers struck me as an important image of the night.

By June 1, street protests turned to mourning, and at the Dunbar Pavilion, hundreds of Tucsonans raised their fists in the air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, straining to hold a symbol of protest for the same length of time that a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck as he lay dying. The framing of the men from a giant television that showed victims of police violence and their stance made this image.

Weeks later, the Tucson Police Department had to admit that on April 21, 27-year-old Carlos Ingram-Lopez died in police custody. Uncovered by TucsonSentinel.com, Ingram-Lopez's death became a major controversy, and TPD Chief Chris Magnus offered to resign, while the three officers involved were forced out.

The night after revelations of the man's death, hundreds came out to protest the actions of TPD and pressed for large-scale police reform, including Isis Doty-Scott, 16, who put together Wednesday night's protest and helped lead the crowd.

The following night, family members and supporters held a vigil at the El Tiradito shine.

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By June 18, the Bighorn Fire—started during a June 5 lightning storm—had consumed about 37,000 acres and firefighting efforts had shifted from one part of the Santa Catalina Mountains to another. By June 18, the fire had moved north and was clearly visible from Oro Valley, and some communities were forced to evacuate or prepare for evacuation.

I choose two images from the fire, both captured in one night. The first, shows the fire burning in Ventana Canyon in a long-exposure photograph. The second, also a long-exposure photograph, shows the fire burning along the Catalina Mountains near Golder Ranch and Oracle Roads. A plane surveilling the fire makes a barely visible figure eight over the eastern edge of the fire on the ridges.

Along the edge of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 to protect the region's particular species of cacti, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have installed to widespread dismay and controversy, a 30-foot-high steel wall. Throughout the last year, I've gone to the monument repeatedly to document this construction, and the protests that cropped up to press for its halt. And, at dusk I was able to capture this image of a saguaro cactus through the new border wall. Both the saguaro and the wall are indomitable figures in the dying light..

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