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Wyatt Earp: a distant relative returns

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A story about Tombstone isn’t complete without a story about Wyatt Earp. On May 22, the great-grandnephew of Wyatt Earp, also named Wyatt, will perform a one-man play titled “Wyatt Earp: Life on the Frontier” for Tombstone’s annual Wyatt Earp Days, in Tombstone.  “I want people to experience a story that Hollywood never told. There are far more adventures and mystique than in the movies,” said Earp. He has performed this piece close to 750 times, all over the country and world. A self-proclaimed bio-dramatist, Earp enjoys spending his time making the life of another person come alive. Earp hasn’t performed this piece in Tombstone in 15 years, and is looking forward to returning to the town that is home to the story of the legendary Wyatt Earp. Although Earp now resides in Moon Valley, Arizona, he has traveled the world...

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Whiskey distillery brews plan to lease old high school

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“Whiskey is more historic then the building,” said Billy Combs, bartender at Doc Holliday’s Saloon on the historic district of Tombstone. “Might as well put two historic things together.” Steve Murray and Gary Evans, owners of the Arizona Craft Beverage Inc., also known as the Tombstone Distillery want to do just that. They have moved along in the process of completing the $60,000-a-year lease on the old Tombstone High School.  “Right now we are waiting the approval of the attorney after the next Unified School District board meeting,” said Murray. “As of right now the lease is not finalized and the first step to getting there has been taken.” For the process to complete, the attorney and school board must agree on the lease to Murray and Evans and explore any changes that will be made. The old Tombstone High...

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Part 1: Federal program fuels militarization of police

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Millions of dollars in military- grade armaments flow into Arizona communities with minimal standards for training or oversight on how the equipment is being used. An Arizona Sonora News investigation shows towns stocked with mine resistant vehicles, grenade launchers, assault rifles and tear gas — all the discards of war. Proponents of the federal program that offers up the armaments say it saves money for cities. Opponents paint a darker picture: heavily armed law enforcement with what opponents call inadequate oversight and standards for handling cache of weapons. To them, this military hardware welfare system marks a disconcerting move toward militarization among police departments with an increasing “us vs. them” attitude where suspects can become the enemy. They offer recent events as evidence of police overreaction: the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the death of Eric Gardner in...

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Part 2: A statewide audit shows arms to spare

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Thirty-three percent of the law enforcement agencies in the state don’t follow the law, an Arizona Sonora News investigation has found. When sent a Freedom of Information request for an inventory of their weapons, canines and animals, aircraft, vehicles and body armor, only 49 percent of the agencies completely complied with the request. Eighteen percent offered incomplete inventories. Rural communities, cities fewer than 10,000 people, are the most heavily armed. They have a median of 1.55 handguns per sworn officer and 1.8 rifles per sworn officer. The large police departments, those that serve populations over 100,000 people, have 1.5 handguns per sworn officer, but only 0.6 rifles and shotguns per sworn officer. Medium sized agencies have 1.33 rifles per sworn officer and 0.905 rifles and shotguns per sworn officer. The median number of handguns per sworn officer, based on...

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Part 3: Armed and ready absent oversight, training

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Bisbee is the most heavily armed police department in the state of Arizona, with 4.15 handguns per sworn officer and 3.77 rifles and shotguns per sworn officer. The department has 13 sworn officers who serve a population of 5,360. While most departments in the state hover around 1.42 handguns per sworn officer, towns like Bisbee are able to get as many guns as they want with minimal oversight. There are no national or state standards or recommendations on what equipment a police department should or shouldn’t have. “There’s literally nothing to give any guidance to police departments in terms of what kind of weaponry they should have, what kind of gear they should have what’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable,” said Pete Kraska, the chair of graduate studies and research in the school of justice studies at Eastern Kentucky...

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Is the lure of the Wild West fading?

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  Is western culture too tough to die? Tourism in Tombstone Arizona has seen a significant decrease within the last decade. According to Robert Carreira, director for the Center of Economic Research at Cochise College, there were 45,790 visits to the Tombstone Courthouse. Last year that number dropped to 42,549 (7.08 percent decrease). In the past decade, the peak year was 2005, which saw 59,330 visitors. Carreira said there were many reasons for this decline in visitation, one being the decline in activity at Fort Huachuca. The second reason is a general disinterest in of the history of the American Wild West. “In the past, there were many more military and civilian personnel on temporary duty to the fort, which provided a steady flow of day visitors,” Carreira said. “Yet another factor is the ebb and flow of interest...

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Historical crops may be the future of sustainable agriculture

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Two Southern Arizonan nonprofit organizations, Native Seeds/SEARCH and Tohono O’odham Community Action, are working to promote wild food sources and desert tolerant crops in the region. Before Arizona became known for its cotton and citrus, before farmers moved west to tame the land, before Spanish explorers first set their eyes on the Grand Canyon, the Tohono O’odham were cultivating the land and using the Southwest’s natural food sources to survive. For hundreds of years, their diet consisted of wild foods straight from the Sonoran Desert like mesquite bean pods, cholla buds, and prickly pear fruit. The Tohono O’odham were also adept farmers, growing enough desert-hardy crops, like tepary beans and 60-day corn, that they were completely food self-sufficient up until the mid-20th century. International turmoil and government programs in the mid-1900s pulled many Native Americans away from their homes and introduced processed...

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Tombstone banks on history to attract visitors

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The clop of horses’ hooves and jingle of spurs on the wooden sidewalk peppers the dusty morning air of Tombstone. “First shootout at noon,” calls a man with a snowy white beard and sheriff’s costume as he wanders toward Allen Street, Tombstone’s historic district. In Tombstone, history is a part of the fabric of everyday life, one that draws visitors from all over the world. Reenactments, museums, and tours are big business here. The “Town Too Tough To Die” survives on its history. The O.K. Corral, site of that infamous gunfight, charges an adult admission of $10 for reenactments. The gift shop is filled with tchotchkes emblazoned with the O.K. Corral logo. Patty Feather, a Bird Cage theater employee, delivers a short spiel on the history of the theater for passersby. Her black-silk skirt swishes on the floor as...

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Miss Rita: Bringing heart and soul to Arizona football

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It’s impossible to miss her big smile and bright blonde hair bouncing through the football facility. If you know anything about Arizona football, then you know who Coach Rich Rodriguez is. But if you know the ins and outs of the team, you know “Miss Rita” Rodriguez. Rita grew up playing sports and has loved football for as long as she can remember. She attended Fairmont State College for three years and then met Rich. She transferred to West Virginia University, where she cheered and he played football, and they’ve been a team ever since. Throughout Rich’s career, Rita has been his never-ending encouragement. When he was coaching at Glenville, W.Va., State College the budget was small and they relied on volunteer help. Rita did her share. The field didn’t have an emblem on it and she wanted to...

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Honored rural teacher brings musical passion to classroom

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A love for kids, passion for teaching, love for the subject, a willingness to change and understanding the role of school in a child’s life. Those are the five qualities that can be found in an exceptional teacher, and for Margie Looney she can be called exceptional. “She helps everyone hands on, she helps improve everyone even the quietest of people,” said Dillyn Armstrong a ninth grade student at Willcox High School. Armstrong has been playing the bass since fifth grade and has had Looney as his teacher for the past four years. Margie Looney has been teaching orchestra at Willcox High School and middle school since 2010. This past year she was awarded Cochise County Teacher of the Year for middle schools, Cochise County Rural Schools Teacher of the Year, as well as 2014 Arizona Rural Teacher of the...

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