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N4T Investigators: Judge calls suspect ‘Incredibly stupid’ before releasing him without bond

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Earlier this week, the News 4 Tucson Digging Deeper Team told you about growing outrage, following the release of a man accused of firing shots at a Tucson Police Sergeant who was working on an unrelated case. He was in plain clothes in an unmarked vehicle doing surveillance. 

Zachary Lee, 26, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm within city limits. At his court hearing on Monday, Lee was released without bond to pre-trial services.

The Digging Deeper team got a hold of Lee's risk assessment form giving the judge background on the 26-year-old as well as an audio recording of what went on during Monday's hearing.

It was in city court when Prosecutor Liz Farkas told Judge Rosemary Panuco, that Lee be held on a $50,000 bond.

"[Lee] engaged in shooting at the victim and firing at law enforcement, and he's facing mandatory prison time if convicted," Farkas said. 

Tucson police released surveillance video from a Suntran bus showing Zachary Lee just before he got off the bus and approached the police officer last Friday at 29th and Swan. 

The video showed the sergeant's vehicle parked.

The risk assessment form read, "According to the arresting agency, the defendant got into a verbal exchange with a Tucson Police Department Sergeant, who was conducting unrelated surveillance in an unmarked car."  

Mike Storie represents the Tucson Police Officer's Association of which the sergeant is a member. He said the assessment is incorrect. 

"Actually, there were no words exchanged. The sergeant was in a vehicle with the windows rolled up and never spoke to this person," Storie said.

The video showed Lee using hand gestures. Storie said lee was throwing gang signs, shortly after that he added Lee began firing at the officer. Tucson police said they found a gun on Lee when he was arrested, and casings at the scene that matched the gun. 

"[The sergeant] unholsters his weapon, which was holstered at the time, jumps out, takes cover and returns fire," Storie added.

Police said Lee was struck in the arm and ran into an apartment complex where officers arrested him and administered first aid. Lee was transported to the hospital with injuries

The assessment document showed "the risk assessment places the defendant in the low conditions category. Release under the supervision of this agency (pretrial services) is recommended."

Under Criminal History, the document showed "a search of national, state, and local criminal history repositories did not reveal any previous arrests involving a felony or misdemeanor charges. No warrant alleging failure to appear."

Behavioral Stability showed "screening results do not indicate the need for a substance abuse or mental health assessment"

During the hearing, Judge Rosemary Panuco agreed with pre-trial services.

"Mr. Lee was incredibly stupid, felony stupid but, I think given the situation and the fact that he has absolutely no record I am going to listen to pretrial services," Panuco said. 

We've emailed and called Judge Panuco and have not heard back. We have also reached out to the presiding Judge Jeffrey Bergin who said they cannot comment on ongoing cases.

The next court date for Lee is Sept. 13.

In the meantime, Storie said he will be reviewing the assessment statement with the sergeant. He hopes the Pima County Attorney's office will re-file a motion for reconsideration of a bond.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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