Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona announced Thursday that he would issue semiautomatic AR-15 rifles to all patrol deputies and require them to carry a firearm even when off-duty, the Arizona Republic reported.
The move was apparently unrelated to an incident earlier in the day when a jail worker with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was shot to death in his front yard while starting his truck, according to the newspaper. Plans for the news conference had been made earlier in the week. Still, Arpaio used the opportunity to talk about the death of his employee.
"It’s very sad what happened,” Arpaio said, as quoted by the Republic. “This unfortunate situation that occurred dovetails somewhat into ... issuing my officers these semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifles.”
A news release from the sheriff's office said the agency had obtained 400 AR-15s in a process that took a few months to complete. The rifles were purchased with $500,000 seized under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, according to the newspaper. Arpaio said the AR-15s have an advantage over handguns in that they will help deputies counter suspects who have greater firepower.