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Arpaio says he’ll investigate deputy involved in fatal crash

PHOENIX — A Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy is still on the job while the County Attorney’s Office decides whether he should be charged with manslaughter.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he’s planning his own internal investigation into the actions of Deputy Sean Pearce but did not say when that would begin.

Glendale police say that on Dec. 16, 2013, Pearce was driving a Chevy Tahoe 81 mph, which is twice the posted speed limit, when it struck a car near 59th Avenue and Northern. The driver of the car, 63-year-old Army veteran John Harding, was killed in the crash.

Pearce claims he was chasing a murder suspect at the time and that his Tahoe did not have lights and sirens in the car.

“He was not arrested,” Arpaio said. “This is an investigation by the Glendale police, who turned it over to the County Attorney. It will be up to the County Attorney to make a decision on any charges.”

Arpaio said that Pearce is devastated by the accident. He added that Pearce has a great record as a deputy.

“He’s been on the job for 21 years. (He’s) dedicated,” Arpaio said. “No blemish on his record. He was shot and almost killed by a violent criminal.”

Pearce is the son of former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a longtime Arpaio ally. Arpaio said that despite the relationship, he’s not showing favoritism or playing politics.

“If anybody wants to go after him, me or the County Attorney for political reasons…it’s not fair. This has nothing to do with politics,” said Arpaio.

Russell Pearce is also a supporter of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.