Terrorism charges could not be pursued in the case of a potential Phoenix school shooter due to a legal loophole in Arizona’s state legislation. Because the arrestee was targeting a private educational institution, he was unable to be charged with any crimes relating to terrorism, a dangerous oversight.
The legislature has since amended this law and rectified the situation going forward, but the potential shooter was ultimately only charged with one of three recommended charges due to this loophole creating a non-applicability for terrorism charges regarding threats to private schools.
Midwestern University Medical School Student Tony Tran Was Arrested in August of 2021 for Plotting a School Shooting
Tony Tran, at the time a recently-suspended student at Midwestern University’s medical school was found in his car on his way to meet with Dr. Jeffrey Jensen, the Dean of Midwestern University’s School of Podiatric Medicine, with a loaded firearm in the vehicle. His sister contacted police that morning after receiving a video from her brother, Mr. Tran.
In that video he stated that he planned to commit a shooting at Glendale’s Midwestern University. He was subsequently arrested at a gas station in Tempe, traveling toward Glendale and was taken into custody. He initially was supposed to face three charges: terrorism, terroristic threats, and interfering with an educational institution.
Prosecutors could only charge him with one count, however, of interfering with an educational institution, due to Arizona’s state law not recognizing private schools under its definitions of terrorism and terroristic threat. The dean spoke out at Mr. Tran’s sentencing, stating that the single charge does not convey the true gravity and potential for harm that Mr. Tran’s actions posed. He was eventually sentenced to two and a half years in prison, not for making threats on record, but for interfering with a surveillance device and tampering with his ankle monitor prior to trial.
His sentence, according to Dean Jensen, does not adequately address the harm, fear, and trauma that Mr. Tran’s threats caused Midwestern University and its students, faculty, and staff.
Senate Bill 1332 Has Been Passed and Amended to Fix This Oversight
A Maricopa County attorney and Midwestern University officials championed the cause, convincing the legislature to pass Senate Bill 1332 which amends the law to include private educational institutions in its definitions in the terrorism charges categories. If Midwestern University had been a public school, this case most certainly would have played out very differently.
Territorial Law Attorneys a law firm which has been effectively representing the people of Yuma, San Luiz, and Somerton in personal injury and criminal law cases since 1983.