Ambushed after all? Medical 'experts' wrong in shooting case of Pinal County sheriff Deputy Louie Puroll

Bloody shirts don’t lie – and Pinal County sheriff Deputy Louie Puroll’s green shirt says he didn’t shoot himself in the back after all.

Pinal County Deputy Purrol's wound/submitted photo

Such is the conclusion after the Arizona Department of Public Safety tested Puroll’s shirt for gunshot residue.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, along with other law enforcement agencies, had investigated the April 30 shooting and found “the facts of the case confirmed the accounts of the event as Deputy Puroll described,” notes the most recent release from the sheriff’s office.

Two medical bigwigs then cried foul, saying Puroll had been shot at close contact. Neither of the medical “experts” had examined the wound, but merely glanced at photographs.

The Department of Public safety concluded its testing of Puroll’s bloody shirt Oct. 8 and, although DPS refuses to comment on the testing or any aspect of the case, the sheriff’s office fills us in.

Close up of Pinal Deputy Puroll's green shirt/submitted photo

The test results are “a hole was located on the back left side of the t-shirt. The area around the hole was microscopically and chemically processed for the presence of gunshot residues. Bullet wipe was found which is consistent with the passage of a bullet; however, no gun power was detected,” said the release.

Not only does this kill off a goodly number of conspiracy theories, but it leaves the two “experts” with a very tough decision:

Would they like the egg on their faces scrambled or fried?

To recap, 53-year-old Puroll, a 15-year-veteran with the sheriff’s office, was wounded on his left side while out tracking drug smugglers near Antelope Peak.

“He was ambushed and shot,” says a May 9 letter from Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, with the shooting resulting in a multi-agency sweep. “There were over 100 illegals apprehended within our security perimeter in the remote desert area south of I-8 and west of Casa Grande, just within 24 hours we were there.”

Then came the two medical “experts” who said that’s not what happened and offered their own opinions to the Arizona Republic.

Close up of Pinal Deputy Puroll's gunshot wound/submitted photo

Puroll had to be “within inches” of the weapon, not 25 yards away, claimed Dr. Michael Baden, co-director of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigation Unit and former chief medical examiner for New York City.

“This was fired at contact range . . . with the muzzle of the gun lying against the skin,” the Republic quoted Dr. Werner Spitz, co-author of the textbook “Medicolegal Investigation of Death” and the retired chief medical examiner of Detroit’s Wayne County.

This is not the first time at least one of the “former” and “retired” medical examiners offered his two cents on a high profile case. This is also not the first time his two cents were not even worth a penny.

Baden took the stand as an “expert” witness in the case of Ted Binion, the Las Vegas tycoon who died under suspicious circumstances in 1998.

The defense said Binion, a reported heroin addict, died of a heroin overdose.

“By all initial appearances, it seemed like an open-and-shut case: suicide or accidental death of a life-long addict by lethal overdose,” CBS’s 48 Hours reported.

Baden said no, the guy was suffocated to death.

“Not just any kind of suffocation said Baden, but a rare method of murder dating back to 19th Century England called burking – suffocating an already intoxicated person leaving minimal evidence,” said CBS News.

“Baden said Ted’s burking was botched and pointed to circular marks on Ted’s chest, “‘which, in my opinion, matches up to the buttons on the shirt.’”

There goes Baden with another theory based solely on photographs.

While his testimony helped convict the two suspected murderers of Binion, a Nevada Supreme Court Judge overturned the convictions and a second trial cleared both suspects of the murder.

“Defense lawyers would have an amazing nine medical experts of their own testify that Baden’s burking theory was dead wrong,” CBS wrote of the second trial.

“‘And they have, in a singular voice, rejected as absurd the Baden theory of burking,’ (defense attorney Tony) Serra told the court.”

How strange the bigwig medical man keeps popping up during high profile cases. If we didn’t know any better, we’d perhaps think he’s just trying to get his name in the papers.

But that, of course, may qualify as a conspiracy theory.

NOTE: This post was amended to remove DPS from being named as an agency in the initial investigation that agreed with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation’s findings, although an earlier news release from the sheriff’s office reported it had. Terminology that refers to the case as “closed” has also been omitted.

Past posts on topic:

Who shot Pinal Deputy Puroll?

Shot deputy recovering


PHOTO NOTE: Two desert area photos include: one photo taken by “Secure Border Intelligence” that captured Deputy Puroll working the same area approximately one month prior to the shooting incident and one photo also from “Secure Border Intelligence” of armed suspects in the same location and on the same day that Deputy Puroll was photographed.

Armed suspects in area same day Puroll was photographed/submitted photo

Pinal Deputy Puroll patrolling area where he was shot about one month prior to shooting/submitted photo

Blue shirt that had been tied around Pinal Deputy Puroll's waist/submitted photo

Pinal County Deputy Louie Puroll/submitted photo

What do you think?

Do you now believe Deputy Puroll was ambushed?

Sept. 28 poll results on the question (as of Oct. 12):

Do you believe Deputy Puroll was ambushed by drug smugglers?
Yes 26%
No 59%
I don’t know. I’m too busy still wondering how O.J. was acquitted. 12%
Other – please explain in comment section of post. 0%

About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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37 Responses to Ambushed after all? Medical 'experts' wrong in shooting case of Pinal County sheriff Deputy Louie Puroll

  1. RH says:

    Is it a coincidence that this was a “in-house investigation”? No indpendant outside FBI lab tests, and chain of control of this shirt was “in-house”, so maybe its accurate maybe not, since they chose to do a in-house investigation which some will forever believe was tainted with that ‘thin blue line”, had they sent it out immediately to the FBI for them to test one could say it was impartial, untainted tests, to late now, since if anything did exist to show a hoax its been covered up good now! Am I the only one to wonder why Sheriff Arpaio wants this particular Sheriff of Pinal County to do a “in-house police investigation” of two of his commanders coming forth making accusations against his 2nd in command, all three are now on administrative leave, now the difference here is the justice department stepped in and took the files and pretty much makes Arpaio’s attempt at a friendly in-house investigation by a fellow sheriff moot! If one has a dog in a fight one has a reason to see his dog win!

    • Rynski says:

      awww, shucks, rh – does this mean you don’t believe puroll was ambushed?
      also, as joes pointed out below:
      Department of Public safety concluded its testing of Puroll’s bloody shirt Oct. 8.
      so it was not in house – but thanks for theory!

    • leftfield says:

      … had they sent it out immediately to the FBI…

      Not if you are inclined, as I am, to see the FBI as a terrorist organization.

  2. JoeS says:

    DPS tested the shirt,  but…maybe they are in on it too !!!


  3. JoeS says:

    Thanks for the story Ryn,   no one else wanted to touch it.

    • Rynski says:

      my pleasure, joes – i would have gotten to it sooner but i had to take columbus day off to investigate if it were a real holiday – hahah.
      i am surprised? no one else wanted this juicy story – although so many people were screaming very loudly when these ‘experts’ came forward saying the ambush story was a lie. …where’d they go?
      thanks for your help and reminders!

  4. JoeS says:


    Are donations down at the SPLC?

  5. leftfield says:

    “Expert” is a commonly used and ill-defined term.  You will rarely find people actually in whatever field is being discussed using the term.  More commonly, it is used as shorthand by people outside of a given area of study.  That aside, the one “expert” quoted seems on the face of it to be adequately credentialed and experienced to render an opinion.  And, an “opinion” is what he gave.  When his hypothesis was tested, it failed to be supported by the evidence. 

    Not being conspiracy oriented, I am inclined to accept the test results as supportive of the deputy’s story of the events.  What I think is important is that the testing was actually done.  The results are so much more relevant to reality than those mysterious and apparently fictional “headless bodies” in the desert.

    • Rynski says:

      i’m always wary of the term ‘expert’ as well. i, too, found, as you noted, ‘expert’ is kind of a blanket term for those outside the field. perhaps it was first coined by journalistic types to cover those lengthy titles that sometimes take up two lines and really bog down the flow of the story? ‘expert’ is much easier than supervisor of etc. etc. etc. former president of etc. etc. and chairman of etc. etc.
      i’ll agree dr. ‘binion was burked’ baden does have a fine array of credentials – but even the finest credentials don’t automatically lead to an accurate opinion garnered from a mere photo.
      it reminds me of those doctors quoted in tabloids – they are constantly looking and photos and saying this celebrity is suffering from anorexia or that one has had 42 facelifts – always with the disclaimer: ‘said doctor john doe, who did not actually treat the patient….’

      • leftfield says:

        it reminds me of those doctors quoted in tabloids – they are constantly looking and photos and saying this celebrity is suffering from anorexia or that one has had 42 facelifts – always with the disclaimer: ‘said doctor john doe, who did not actually treat the patient….’

        Sadly, even a higher degree and years of education is no guarantee against being an idiot.

  6. JoeS says:

    “… mysterious and apparently fictional “headless bodies” in the desert.”

    Yep,   I’ve checked all 57 States and no headless bodies are evident.

  7. fraser007 says:

    Guess he faked the radio messages, he actually got a cell phone call from a friend AND how did he leave all those AK-47 spent rounds on the ground? Next time he should shoot better and leave a couple of dead drug smugglers. There would be some good evidence.

  8. Alan in Kent WA says:

    Most people who live other places don’t understand that there are certain areas that are under a state of siege down your way.  We have some friends that live in an outlying area, and they have to watch to keep from being run over by vans at night.  I follow both the TC and the SV Herald and man o man, some of the rural areas are dangerous.

    • Rynski says:

      pretty scary for your friends and the rambling vans, alan in kent wa – yuck.
      pretty frightful overall, i’d agree. let’s just hope the rural sieges don’t start moving inward anytime soon, like wildlife that ends up ambling down campbell when there’s no more rural to be had.
      bet kent wa looks really cozy sometimes, no?

  9. andrew farley says:

    AHA!, FAKE! in the photo of the gunshot, the blood is dripping UP!  You got a lot of splainin’  to do, Lucy.

    • Rynski says:

      hahhahah – that’s because they keep sending that photo UPSIDE DOWN. i caught it and changed it last time – but this time i let it slip by, figuring no one would notice – oh, you eagle eye farley!

  10. F E B says:

    You refer several times to the case being closed & reopened.  What does that mean here?  In Arizona, “an offense is considered cleared (solved) when at least one offender is arrested for a crime, even though several may have been involved. Offenses may also be cleared by exceptional means when the offender: Commits suicide; makes a dying declaration; confesses while in custody or serving time for another crime; is prosecuted in another jurisdiction for the same offense; is a juvenile who is handled by notifying the parents; when the victim refuses to prosecute; or another jurisdiction refuses to extradite the offender.”  (DPS, 2009 Crime in Arizona Report.)
    The Puroll shooting hasn’t been cleared.   Babeu has just said (several times now) that he’s not looking for them.
    You misstate DPS’s role.  It didn’t “confirm Puroll’s account of being ambushed.”  It just answered a specific question about the shirt.  It never “closed the case,” because the case was never in its hands (after the initial confusion). It was prevented from making any wider judgment by Babeu’s decision to take the case out of its hands.
    That’s what the acrimonious public (and private) exchanges between Babeu & the DPS at the end of September were about.
    Babeu placed great weight on 3 immigrants who he alleged had been robbed at gunpoint by the same men who shot Puroll.   Armed robbery is a serious crime.  What’s the status of that case?  Was it also closed?   That’s a trick question, because no case was ever opened.  For UCR purposes, it never happened.  The victims were quietly hustled out of the country.
    Anyone know if Tim Gaffney had any second thoughts about the press release this article recycles?  He later scrubbed the part that relied on the authority of an old episode of “48 Hours Mystery.”

    • Rynski says:

      dear feb,
      what i meant by ‘case closed’ was that the investigation was concluded and the results of the investigation confirmed puroll’s account. the most recent news release said the investigation was concluded by sheriff’s office ‘and other agencies,’ while an earlier release noted dps was one of those ‘other agencies’ that confirmed results of investigation.
      from the release: ‘The shooting was investigated by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, along with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies. The criminal investigation had concluded and the facts of the case confirmed the accounts of the event as Deputy Puroll described.’
      no one is saying the testing of the bloody shirt (by dps) confirms the account, but it does prove the experts wrong. perhaps the item was ‘misread’ rather than misstated?

      could not tell you about any other release revisions but i found the reference to the binion case interesting and intriguing as well as quoted from court records – so i would hope it’s accurate.
      also hope that clears up any confusion.
      not sure why you brought in all the ‘cleared’ and ‘solved’ and other stuff, as that was not what this article was about. the bottom line was the experts were wrong and the shirt testing proved puroll was not shot at close range.

  11. F E B says:

    Rynski, this is straightforward.  You said “the case was initially closed, with both the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and DPS confirming Puroll’s account of being ambushed …”  This is false.

    DPS has gone to unusual lengths, publicly & privately, to emphasize that it did not confirm Puroll’s ambush story.  As you may recall, that’s what all the shouting was about between DPS & Babeu a couple of weeks ago.  DPS didn’t confirm the ambush story based on the crime-scene and it didn’t confirm it after looking at the shirt.

    You also referred to “the case being closed by the sheriff’s office and DPS.”  Again, this is false.  DPS had the case taken away from it by an interested local official who then decided to stop trying to solve it.  That’s not what DPS means by “closure,” and it’s not what most other professional law enforcement organizations mean by it. This may seem like an arcane semantic point to you, but it’s actually fairly important.

    When agencies disagree, writers are well served not to rely too heavily on press handouts from one or the other.  That goes double here.


  12. radmax says:

    Rynski, the more I hear about this story…the more my head hurts. 🙂
    So I will just take this opportunity to remind everyone that a great little site called is having their annual fall blowout sale. I know this will interest you, ‘nanasavers 50% off! 😉
    Nurse…more medication please…

  13. AZ RANCHER says:

    Kudos to the author!

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