Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mesa man charged with causing 18,000 acre Sunflower Fire

Suspect was target shooting at bachelor party campout

PHOENIX – On June 22, 2012, Steven Craig Shiflet, 23, from Mesa, Ariz., was charged by complaint in federal district court with carelessly or negligently placing an ignited substance that may cause a fire on National Forest System lands, firing incendiary ammunition on National Forest System lands, and causing timber, trees, slash, brush, or grass to burn on National Forest System lands. Shiflet is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Phoenix on July 13, 2012.

                 Investigation into the source and origin of the Sunflower Fire indicated that the fire originated near the intersection of Forest Road 25 and Sycamore Creek on May 12, 2012. According to the complaint, Shiflet and four of his friends traveled to the Sycamore Creek area from Mesa, Ariz., for a campout and bachelor party on May 11, 2012. The group had been shooting at targets for approximately two hours on the morning of May 12, 2012, at which point Shiflet loaded an incendiary shotgun shell into a shotgun and fired it. Shortly after Shiflet fired the shot, smoke appeared in the brush just behind where the shot was fired. Despite their attempts to do so, the men were unable to extinguish the fire. The fire has now burned nearly 18,000 acres of National Forest System lands.

            A conviction for each of the charges in the complaint carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

            The investigation in this case was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. The prosecution is being handled by Vincent Kirby, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

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