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Part of what I’ve tried to do during the 12 years STATter911 has been in existence and during my reporting career is look for patterns. Last year I began noticing a lot of stories of firefighters getting into career trouble with off-duty incidents involving guns. This story from Buckeye, Arizona is another one that fits that pattern. But the story also hit on another trend worth watching: Firefighters finding career trouble through connection to motorcycle clubs (of course, this isn’t to say all motorcycle clubs or firefighters in motorcycle clubs are bad).
Recently, arrests of a career lieutenant and two volunteer firefighters in Orange County, New York linked them to leadership of a large drug ring connected to two motorcycle clubs. Prior to that, there were a series of incidents in Florida where firefighters involvement with illegal activity related to motorcycle clubs impacted careers. Now, termination proceedings have begun for Frank R. Zepeda, a 12-year member of the Buckeye Fire Department.
Zepeda was arrested Thursday on weapons and drug charges. According to news reports, police have connected Zepeda to a road rage incident where someone’s car was shot up in March of 2018. The motorcycle club connection was cited by police in a theft incident a month later where Zepeda’s fire department was the victim.
Among the allegations, Zepeda is accused of helping orchestrate the theft of $10,000 in firefighting equipment from a Buckeye fire station in April 2018. According to police, on April 29, 2018, an on-duty firefighter noticed equipment was missing from Station 706, including fire turnouts, drug and IV boxes, and ballistic vests.
Police said investigators received information earlier this month that implicated Zepeda in the burglary “which was allegedly carried out by members of a motorcycle club in which Zepeda is president,” according to the statement.