ARIZONA NEWS

Weekend wrap-up: Biggest Arizona-related stories from this weekend

Jun 24, 2018, 4:45 PM
FILE- This file image made from video March 18, 2018, of a mounted camera provided by the Tempe Pol...

FILE- This file image made from video March 18, 2018, of a mounted camera provided by the Tempe Police Department shows an interior view moments before an Uber SUV hit a woman in Tempe, Ariz. An Arizona police report says the human backup driver the Uber autonomous SUV was streaming a television show on Hulu just before the vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in March. (Tempe Police Department via AP, File)

(Tempe Police Department via AP, File)

PHOENIX — This past weekend saw a lot of breaking news coming out of Arizona, including new developments in the fatal Uber crash in Tempe.

Here are the biggest stories from this past weekend, from both Arizona and across the nation.


Report says Uber driver was watching TV show before fatal Tempe accident

A comprehensive police report of the self-driving Uber accident that killed a pedestrian in Tempe said the crash was avoidable and concluded the driver had been watching video of a talent show on a cellphone.

“This crash would not have occurred if (Rafaela) Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,” the Tempe Police report read.

Data from streaming-services company Hulu obtained through a search warrant showed Vasquez’s phone was playing the singing competition “The Voice” at 9:59 p.m., about the same time as the accident.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, died March 18 around 10 p.m. when the Volvo XC90, in autonomous mode with Vasquez behind the wheel, struck her on Mill Avenue near Curry Road.

Mother who sued over separation in Arizona reunited with son

A Guatemalan woman who sued the federal government after authorities separated her from her young son at the Arizona-Mexico border has been reunited with him.

The Baltimore Sun reported the pair were reunited at BWI Marshall Airport early Friday after a month apart.

Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia had sued the Trump administration this week, alleging border agents took the boy two days after they had crossed the border on May 19 near San Luis, Arizona.

She said she and Darwin Mejia-Mejia, 7, had been seeking asylum.

The boy was sent to a children’s detention center in Phoenix.

Parents of young boy killed by door at Scottsdale fire station seek $9M

The family of a young boy killed when an automated door crushed him at a suburban Phoenix fire station is seeking $9 million in damages.

Representatives of Daniel and Courtney Reiss notified Scottsdale they were submitting a notice of claim, the legal precursor to a lawsuit against a public entity in Arizona, over the February death of their only child.

The notification said Courtney and 16-month-old Joey were among a group of four mothers and seven children touring the Scottsdale Fire Station No. 1 at 1901 N. Miller Road on Feb. 3 when the incident occurred.

When a truck left the station to take some of the visitors on a ride, the claim says, it triggered a sensor that was programmed to close the bay door several minutes later. The door had been open before the truck left, and there was no warning it would be shutting.

When it “violently slammed shut on Joey,” his mother had no time to react, the claim said.

The boy suffered skull fractures and a massive brain injury and was never revived, despite efforts at the station and the hospital. He was declared dead two days later, and his organs were donated.

More than 44 million tourists spent $7.8 billion in Phoenix last year

The latest numbers show tourists still are major contributors to Phoenix’s economy.

VisitPhoenix.com released its 2017 tourism numbers. The report showed 44 million visitors came to Phoenix last year.

“The total direct spending from that 44 million visitors is nearly $7.8 billion,” Visit Phoenix’s Eric Kerr said.

Most of that money, he said, was spent on lodging, restaurants, recreation and retail.

Arizona’s prisons boss found in contempt over inmate care

Teachers rallied at the Arizona State Capitol on Saturday as part of their final push to gather the signatures needed to get the Invest in Education Act on the November ballot.

The measure would roughly double the income tax rate for Arizonans who make $250,000 or more. The money from the increased rates is expected to generate about $690 million annually for public schools.

Supporters planned to start gathering at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, with a rally starting an hour later.

“It’s a day of action,” said Josh Buckley, chair for the Invest In Ed campaign. “We’re hoping to send out about 1,000 volunteers to go gather signatures as part of our last big push.”

Man who stopped traffic on Hoover Dam bridge charged with terrorism

A Nevada man has been indicted in Arizona on terrorism and other felony charges after his arrest last week in a large vehicle that blocked traffic on a Colorado River bridge on the main highway between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that 30-year-old Matthew Phillip Wright was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Kingman, Arizona.

Wright was being held Friday at a jail in Kingman pending appointment of a public defender to his case and his arraignment July 5 in Mohave County Superior Court.

Border agents arrest large group of illegal aliens in southern Arizona

Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tucson sector located and arrested a large group of illegal aliens seen crossing through the Arizona desert on Friday.

According to a release, agents assigned to the Ajo Station received a call from Sonora, Mexico’s 911 center, which relayed a message from people within the group of aliens requesting assistance.

The members of the group told dispatchers they had crossed the border illegally.

Through the use of agents on the ground and in the air, 57 people were located in the desert west of Lukeville, with some of the group members suffering from distress due to the intense Arizona temperatures.

In total, 21 adults and 36 minors — 17 unaccompanied — were taken into custody by border agents.

Mesa grandmother’s Korean-inspired sauces to be sold at Walmart

Korean-inspired cooking sauces made by a Mesa grandmother will soon be on Walmart shelves.

Kay Weldon cooked up the first sauce in the 1990s when she owned a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A favorite among customers was her chicken wings because of her sauce. She started out serving the chicken wings as part of a Friday lunch special.

“It was sweet, tangy and spicy,” she said. “It was a big hit. My lunch line was 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. nonstop on Fridays.”

Ten years later, she sold the restaurant, got married and moved to Arizona with her family. But she never stopped making the sauce.

She finally decided to go for it in 2009 when she started selling her sauces. She rebranded her company in 2016 with a new name and more sauce flavors.

Her company is called Ahssa Foods, which means “awesome” in Korean slang.

Her big break came earlier this month when she pitched her product at Walmart’s annual Open Call event.

“They loved my sauce,” she said. “I even made chicken wings and Korean ribs so they could taste it, and they loved it.”

Has Republican Party been redefined under Trump? Sen. Jeff Flake says so

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has been among the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump, and it does not seem like that will stop anytime soon.

In an interview with ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, Flake argued that the president has redefined the Republican Party — for the worse.

“Unfortunately yes,” Flake said in response to host George Stephanopoulos’ question of whether Trump “redefined” the party.

McCain viewed more favorably among Arizona Dems than GOP, poll finds

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is more popular among registered Democrat voters in Arizona than registered voters in his own party.

According to CBS News, a recent poll found that only 20 percent of registered Republican voters in Arizona view McCain favorably, compared to 62 percent of Democrats.

In comparison, only 33 percent of Independent voters in the state viewed McCain favorably.

Sixty-eight percent of Arizona Republicans, 17 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Independents viewed McCain unfavorably, the poll found.

Woman claims Peoria Walgreens wouldn’t fill miscarriage prescription

A woman claimed that a pharmacist at a Walgreens in Peoria would not fill her prescription to treat her miscarriage due to his “ethical beliefs.”

Nicole Mone wrote in a now-viral Facebook post that she was denied when she went to pick up her prescription at a Walgreens near 91st and Peoria avenues last week.

“I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7-year-old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs,” she wrote.

“I get it, we all have our beliefs. But what he failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted. This is something I have zero control over.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kathy Cline, Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Weekend wrap-up: Biggest Arizona-related stories from this weekend