Judge dismisses complaint against man Mecham nominated

July 15, 1987

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. — A man once nominated by Gov. Evan Mecham as head of the state liquor department cannot be prosecuted in a 1955 killing because the killing probably took place in Mexico, a judge has ruled.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Alice Truman said Tuesday the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute Alberto Rodriguez in the shooting of a burglary suspect when Rodriguez was a border town police officer.

Mecham, who has become embroiled in numerous controversies since taking office earlier this year, had named Rodriguez as Liquor Department superintendent but then withdrew the nomination. Lawmakers said the nomination would have been rejected by the state Senate.

Rodriguez, a former mayor of Douglas, could not be reached for comment on the ruling because his last known telephone number has been disconnected, but Mecham praised the decision.

“Now, a great man has been vindicated,” Mecham said. He added that he had not decided whether to find another state job for Rodriguez but felt “certainly he’ll be worthy to have one.”

Sacremento Peralta, a burglary suspect, was shot near the U.S.-Mexico border after being chased by Rodriguez and other Douglas police officers. Peralta died in Mexican territory.

“The court finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the offense has been committed within the jurisdiction of Arizona as charged within the complaint,” Ms. Truman wrote. “Therefore, it is ordered the complaint is dismissed.”

At a special hearing on the case, Rodriguez testified that he shot Peralta after chasing him into Mexico after Peralta walked into a border stakeout. Rodriguez said he fired because he thought Peralta was reaching for a weapon and might harm him or officer Wayne Huish.

Angelina Gracia De Castro, from Agua Prieta, Mexico, testified that the Feb. 12, 1955, shooting occurred near her home. She said she heard a man plead “Please don’t kill me,” then heard a gunshot and two voices speaking English.

Testimony from Dr. Roman Barroso Garcia indicated that Peralta was shot from an elevated angle. Rodriguez said Peralta was standing at the time.

Rodriguez had been cleared when the shooting was first investigated in 1955, but the state attorney general’s office said it began another investigation in 1986.

The inquiry came to light when Rodriguez was nominated to head the liquor department. He has blamed political enemies for reviving the allegations.