ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona man convicted for threatening principal over school COVID rules

Oct 28, 2022, 4:00 PM

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A Tucson man who showed up at an elementary school with zip ties and threatened to arrest the principal over COVID-19 quarantine measures has been convicted of several misdemeanor offenses.

Kelly Walker was found guilty Wednesday in Tucson City Court of two charges of disrupting an educational institution, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

He was also found guilty of intentionally or knowingly remaining on property of an educational instruction so as to interfere with its lawful use, refusing to obey lawful order to leave educational property and disorderly conduct.

Walker will be sentenced Nov. 17.

A second man involved in the September 2021 incident, Frank Tainatongo, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of criminal trespassing, Vail Unified School District Superintendent John Carruth said. Online Tucson City Court records show Tainatongo paid $250 in fines Friday. He did not have any children enrolled in the school district either, Carruth said.

Walker, Tainatongo and a father of a child attending Mesquite Elementary School were seen in social media videos at the campus threatening the school principal. The trio were upset because the child would miss a school field trip because of possible exposure to COVID-19. They stated they intended to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Principal Diane Vargo.

Vargo called police.

Shortly after the incident, the principal released a video statement through the school district. Vargo described how they had “military, large, black zip ties” and that she tried to de-escalate things first.

Carruth said the father of the Mesquite Elementary student is due to go to trial in December on the same misdemeanor charges as Walker.

At the time, the incident was one of multiple confrontations nationwide between parents and school administrators over pandemic mandates such as masks and quarantining.

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Arizona man convicted for threatening principal over school COVID rules