An Arizona man is accused of leaving his 5-year-old granddaughter in the desert with a loaded gun and telling her to “shoot any bad guys.”
Paul Rater, 53, of Buckeye, was charged Sunday with child endangerment and two counts of child abuse, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says. Sheriff Joe Arpaio told ABC 15 News the girl was left with a loaded and cocked .45 caliber handgun. The gun was ready to fire, deputies said.
“He told her it was to shoot the bad guys. How does a 5-year-old know the difference between good guys and bad guys?,” Arpaio told the news station.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. ‘I Don’t Know Why Papa Left Me, I Was Calling for Him’
The girl told police, “I don’t know why papa left me, I was calling for him,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio told KNXV-TV. Arpaio said the girl told a deputy, “He took me by some bushes, gave me a gun and left me.”
Arpaio said the girl and her grandfather were reported missing by family members after they were gone for four hours. They had left his home in Buckeye to go for a ride in his new pickup truck.
An off-duty firefighter on an ATV heard the girl crying for help and found her while searching along with the girl’s grandmother and others.
2. Rater Went to Eat a Cheeseburger & Have Drinks, Police Say
Rater was found at the South Buckeye Equestrian Center after he called his wife and demanded that she come and pick him up, the Arizona Republic reports.
The sheriff’s office told the newspaper he ordered a jalapeno cheeseburger and drank up to four alcoholic beverages (three Smirnoff ice malt beverages and a Not Your Father’s Root Beer alcoholic drink) before calling his wife. He told her to “get your ass to the feed store and pick me up,” employees told police.
According to court documents, Rater could not call for help or be contacted by his family because he left his cell phone at home.
3. He Said He Walked for Miles to Find Help After His Truck Broke Down
Rater told police his truck broke down and he had to walk several miles to get help. Initially he took his granddaughter along with him, but she complained that she couldn’t walk anymore, so he left her under a tree with the gun, the Arizona Republic reports.
He then continued on to the equestrian center. He walked for about five hours, he told deputies.
“While he was looking for help, he came across multiple people and never thought he should call 911,” deputies said in court documents. “He said he did ask the people to look for his granddaughter because he left her in the desert.”
Equestrian center staff told police Rater came in at about 5:30 p.m. and never mentioned his granddaughter. He did complain about his truck being stuck in the desert and having to walk 10 miles.
4. The Child Was Returned to Her Mother & the Department of Child Safety Is Investigating
The girl was returned to her mother at about 7:15 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.
The state Department of Child Safety was notified and is investigating, according to ABC 15 News.
Deputies said in court documents Rater did not ask about his granddaughter’s wellbeing after he was taken into custody.
5. Rater Is a Former Aircraft Mechanic
According to his Facebook page, Rater is a former aircraft mechanic. He worked for several companies as an A&P (airframe and/or powerplant) mechanic. Court records show he has been employed by Honeywell for the past 10 years.
He is originally from Ripley, New York and has been married for 11 years. A phone call asking for comment was not immediately returned.
He was released from jail, records show.