Investigation Opened into Arizona Shooting That Fired Up Immigration Debate

Deputy said he was wounded in firefight, but experts now doubt his story.

ByABC News
September 28, 2010, 6:36 PM

PHOENIX, Sept. 28, 2010— -- One week after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a tough new anti-immigration bill in April, a dramatic incident in the Arizona desert focused the debate over her decision.

A sheriff's deputy called for backup, saying he had been caught in a firefight.

"I'm not OK, I've been shot. Tell them to hurry up," Deputy Louie Puroll said on a recording of the call. "There's at least two guys with AK's. I may have gotten one of them, but I can't, uh, I got to get off the phone and shut up."

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu claimed that his deputy was ambushed by a band of Mexicans smuggling marijuana.

"He had 20 to 30 rounds fired at him," Sheriff Babeu said after the incident.

Babeu immediately became the darling of Arizona's anti-immigrantion movement. At a Diamondbacks baseball game, he awarded Puroll a Purple Heart before himself throwing out the first pitch. Babeu became a regular on the Fox News Channel, and even appeared in John McCain's campaign ads for his re-election bid.

The problem is, there is now mounting evidence that the shooting may have been a hoax.

Serious holes emerged this week in the deputy's story, starting with a supposed bullet hole in his side. One of the nation's top forensic experts says the evidence points to a self-inflicted wound. The powder burns indicate the muzzle was in contact with his body when the gun fired.

"I cannot tell you who held the gun and who pulled the trigger, but in theory, an individual could cause this wound to himself," said Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist who examined photos of the wounds released by the sheriff's office.

Although hundreds of law enforcement officials responded to the scene, they never recovered the bales of marijuana or found the alleged shooters.