Did Someone Try to Blow Up Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

Officials in Maricopa County, Ariz., said they intercepted a package intended for controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio that contained explosive materials.

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Joshua Lott / REUTERS

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (C) speaks to reporters during a crime suppression operation in Maricopa County.

Officials in Maricopa County, Ariz., said they intercepted a package intended for controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio that contained explosive materials. The package, which was sent through the U.S. Postal Service and addressed to Arpaio’s Phoenix office, was discovered Thursday in Flagstaff by a postal employee.

Police believe the package was picked up in rural Arizona and taken to the Flagstaff post office on Thursday afternoon. ATF officials said the postal employee thought it looked suspicious and a test revealed evidence of explosive residue. A subsequent X-ray scan revealed the package contained gunpowder.

Flagstaff Police said that there was a “disruptive device” in the package, which was detonated by police. No injuries were reported.

Arpaio, whose controversial stance on undocumented immigration has earned him plenty of enemies, is no stranger to threats. And while most have been hoaxes, others were serious enough to warrant arrests. He even once claimed a Mexican drug cartel put a $1 million price on his head. This, however is the first time that a threat came through that could have caused significant damage or injury.

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“Of course you worry…when you convict people, the victim has to be somewhat concerned. I’m a little concerned about my family,” Arpaio said at a news conference. “I didn’t ask for all these threats.”

The 80-year-0ld lawman, who describes himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” has served for the past two decades and is best known for the tough talk that made him a centerpiece of the undocumented immigration debate. He has logged more than 35,000 arrests of people who were accused of being in the country illegally. So staunch was his position that the Department of Justice investigated him for racial profiling in 2010.  He’s also built open-air tent cities to house prisoners at a cheaper cost to the county and ordered that inmates’ uniforms be changed to that colorordered that their uniforms be changed to pink because he felt that the color would be psychologically calming to them.

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More recently, he entrenched himself as part of the “birther” movement, which has tried to disprove President Obama’s citizenship. His “Cold Case Posse” wanted Congress to take over what he called the state of Hawaii’s “lax” probe of the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate. Any so-called evidence found by Arpaio’s team garnered little attention, however.

This threat to Arpaio comes as several other high-profile law enforcement officers have been killed. Last month, Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was killed by a former inmate who rang the doorbell to his home and shot him at point blank range. The suspect later died in a shootout with police in Texas.

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In March, Kaufman County, Tex. district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were murdered in their home; two months earlier, assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was killed as well. No arrests have been made, but authorities believe that there may be a connection to white supremacist groups.

In West Virginia, Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, known for his pursuit of the drug trade in that state, was murdered by an assailant in broad daylight while he ate lunch in his car.

Authorities have not said whether or not this trend is somehow linked to the suspicious package sent to Arpaio, nor do they have a specific motive. “We’ve had suspicious packages with powder in them, but they turned out to not be anything,” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan told the Arizona Republic. “This was one was a real explosive device. It could have seriously injured someone, had they opened it.”