SIERRA VISTA — A man convicted of two counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault for shooting at two Bureau of Land Management rangers was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison by a judge in Cochise County Superior Court on Friday.
Tracy Thibodeaux, 72, was convicted of the counts by a jury in January.
The incident took place on June 5, 2010, when the BLM agents began following a vehicle driven by Thibodeaux.
While rangers are normally tasked with patrolling recreation areas and enforcing site rules, an increase in illegal immigrant and drug smuggling traffic on public lands has meant they have also started dealing with those issues, BLM Spokeswoman Diane Drobka previous told the Herald/Review.
While following, Thibodeaux stopped his white pickup, exited the truck with a rifle and fired at least two shots at the agents, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office reported.
The rangers returned fire when the pickup turned around and drove past them.
Several area law enforcement agencies responded to the area of Thibodeaux’s home on Happy Camp Canyon near Dos Cabezas but he was not found until later that week outside the post office in Bowie.
During Friday’s sentencing, both rangers were present. Tim Rinehart was there in person while Mark Brunk attended by phone.
When offered the chance to speak, Brunk told the judge that he believed that Thibodeaux’s behavior and mental state would place any law enforcement officer at further risk of harm if he were to ever be released from prison. Rinehart told the judge he thought the prosecutor’s request that Thibodeaux be sentenced to a total of 21 years in prison was appropriate.
Speaking on the defendant’s behalf, also by telephone, was his adult niece, Heather Settle.
Settle asked that the judge consider her uncle’s age and lack of any criminal history when deciding on a sentence.
Judge Wallace Hoggatt, before announcing the sentence, said he had considered both the defendant’s mental health issues and his clean criminal record, but that he also took into account the lasting emotional harm to Brunk.
For the sentencing, Wallace divided the counts depending on which victim they were referencing. The combined sentence for the aggravated assault and attempted murder charges referencing Brunk came to nine years in prison, while the combined sentence for the charges referencing Rinehart came to seven years in prison. The two terms are to be served consecutively.
Thibodeaux, who represented himself during the proceedings, had filed several motions to have the case dismissed, all of which were denied by Hoggatt.
Sheriff’s deputies had apprehended Thibodeaux on Thursday, June 10, 2010.
He had evaded arrest until that morning when Sheriff’s deputies took him into custody without incident near the post office in Bowie.
Thibodeaux was booked into the Cochise County Jail on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault, Capas said.
“We had leads that we had been following since the beginning of the incident, and one panned out,” Capas said at the time.
On June 5, Thibodeaux reportedly opened fire on Rinehart and Brunk after they followed his white pickup in the area of Happy Camp Canyon and Apache Pass Road near Bowie.
The two rangers unhurt by the rifle shots, continued to follow Thibodeaux until he eventually returned down the same road, at which point Rinehart and Brunk, who were in pursuit, opened fire on him and the truck, Capas said.
Thibodeaux continued down Happy Camp Canyon to his residence, where multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement eventually gathered and an armed standoff ensued with a woman, 48-year-old Kimberly Adgurson.
Adgurson was eventually taken into custody after Cochise County SWAT personnel used tear gas to force her out of the home.
Later, a search of the home revealed an unspecified number of guns. Thibodeaux was not found, Capas said.
Sheriff’s office investigators later obtained and executed a search warrant of Adgurson’s home in Benson. Investigators also conducted a second, consensual search of another Benson residence but did not locate Thibodeaux.
Adgurson was booked in the county jail on an $8,000 bond. On Jan. 27, 2011, Adgurson was sentenced to 3.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections, with credit given for 228 days, Capas told the Range News.