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Former lawmaker, man who shot her speak during Suns arena debate

Mary Rose Wilcox, in a 2014 file photo (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – A bizarre scene played out during Wednesday’s Phoenix City Council meeting when a former councilwoman and the man who shot her two decades ago both took part in discussions about the downtown arena renovation plan.

Mary Rose Wilcox was on the Council when funding for the Phoenix Suns’ arena was first approved, and she was on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 1997 when they voted for a sales tax to build the downtown baseball stadium.

Wilcox appeared at the meeting to speak in support of the new $235 million renovation, which ended up passing by a 6-2 vote.

Under the plan, the city will contribute $150 million from its Sports Facilities Fund, which is made up of tourism taxes on hotels and rental cars, toward the total cost. The Suns will cover the rest.

During the public comment session, Wilcox said the tourism tax she helped pass was in part designed to pay for renovations when the time came.

“I ask you to keep the promise of the council that voted on this and renovate this building with this tax,” she said. “It’s needed.”

Just a few speakers after Wilcox finished, Larry Naman was called to the microphone by Interim Mayor Thelda Williams, who didn’t seem know recognize his name.

Naman spent 12 years in prison for shooting Wilcox because she voted for the baseball stadium tax.

At his trial in 1998, he alluded to the tax repeatedly in his opening and closing statements and when he called himself to the stand, saying “Violence was justified in this case.”

He picked right up on that theme Wednesday, taking the chamber by surprise.

“The public must be allowed to vote on this,” he said. “If you go ahead and pass this, you are crossing the line and carrying out the equivalent of an act of violence against the public.”

He then calmly described how he shot Wilcox on Aug. 13, 1997, as part of his rambling comments, during which he said he was afraid Arizona Diamondbacks founder Jerry Colangelo and the state’s political leaders would have him assaulted and killed in jail.

He repeated his mantra that passing the Suns arena proposal would be the equivalent of a violent act several times during his bizarre diatribe.

After Naman finished, Councilman Michael Nowakowski interjected before the next speaker to apologize to Wilcox.

“She did what she thought was right, and we as elected officials have to vote on tough issues and we shouldn’t be threatened,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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