When people hear a news report about terrorism, many naturally think about events such as 9/11, or, if your memory goes back a bit further, the terrorist attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Germany, where a Palestinian group known as “Black September” took eleven hostages (members of the Israeli Olympic team) and eventually killed them. So our interest was piqued when we saw a headline recently about terrorism in Phoenix.

In fact, the acts referred to in the article were nothing like what many of us think of when the word “terrorism” is mentioned. In this case, the allegations are that an 18-year old male and two juveniles were firing an AR-15 that had previously been stolen from the home of police officer in Avondale. The charges also included robbing someone at gunpoint, and the trio was allegedly driving a stolen vehicle. The article we read called it a “crime spree.” But was it really terrorism?

Terrorism Under Arizona Law

Interestingly, terrorism under the Arizona Criminal Code (A.R.S. 13-2301C12), while it can include political terroristic acts, does not necessarily require taking hostages, blowing up buildings, using (or threatening to use) hazardous materials, or other acts we usually associate with the term “terrorism.” It is defined, simply, as “any felony” using a deadly weapon (or WMD), or intentionally or knowingly inflicting serious physical injury, with the intent to:

  • Influence the policies of the state or any political subdivision;
  • Damage or disrupt public communications, transportation, utilities, or other public services;
  • Coerce or intimidate the population and further the political objectives of any terrorist organization.

This all sounds like it fits the more accepted and standard definition of terrorism. But getting back to the teens with the AR-15, what led to the terrorism charge in their case was that their car (actually the one they are accused of stealing) was “aggressively” following a city bus and firing the semi-automatic rifle out their window. The link to the terrorism statute is that the alleged acts involved a disruption to public transportation.

In any event, the charge is a class 2 felony, and carries a potential penalty (at least for the adult member of the group and either of the juveniles if tried as an adult) of at least 10 years and up to life in prison.

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028


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