By Mark B. Zinman | Zona Law
Our readers may recall that last month, September 2022, we wrote an article analyzing the media attention around evictions and landlord-tenant relationships in general. In that article, we wrote, “There has been a significant change in the way landlord-tenant matters are covered. Each story you read perpetuates the hostility of us vs. them mentality, which perpetuates a hostile environment.” We could not have foreseen the haunting accuracy of these words.
On Thursday, August 25, 2022, tragedy struck in Tucson when a constable, a manager, and another resident were killed by a tenant who was being evicted. Before the shooting, a justice of the peace had found that the tenant materially and irreparably breached his lease by making threats to neighbors and management. When the constable went to execute the writ with management, the resident shot the constable and the manager, and police later found another resident murdered as well. This is a horrible tragedy that should have never occurred.
This shooting highlights the severity and reality of what managers and owners deal with on a daily basis. When dealing with residents, a manager or owner does not always know what they are getting themselves involved in and they do not have some guarantee that they will be safe. They put themselves at risk in every such interaction. It’s imperative that managers and owners take steps to ensure their safety, including but not limited to, calling the police for civil standbys when having in-person interactions with a hostile resident. Do not simply assume that because you have dealt with situations before and not been hurt, that it will always be that way.
Since this shooting, there have been numerous proposed suggestions and thoughts on how writs of restitution should be handled moving forward, from not having managers attend, having the sheriff’s office handle them, or changing the education and safety for constables. What is critical is that the eviction process, and writ of restitution, not be delayed by whatever changes are made. A person that made numerous threats against the life of other residents and then acted on it by killing three people, should not be given additional time to remain on a property. It is important that these people, who lost an eviction for making such threats, be removed at the earliest time possible for the safety of all persons involved, including other residents.
This is a horrible tragedy. Like all others in our industry, we are deeply saddened by this horrendous loss of life. This disaster is a reminder of the seriousness of the jobs for both managers and constables. There is a GoFundMe account that has been set up by the manager/victim’s stepdaughter (make sure you get the correct account if donating).