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New documents show former Arizona prisons chief had blood-alcohol level above legal limit on night of police standoff

Charles Ryan's wife told officers he had consumed "half of a large bottle of tequila," according to a Tempe police report. Ryan faces charges of aggravated assault.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit when he engaged in a 3 1/2-hour standoff with police earlier this month at his Tempe home, according to a police report obtained Wednesday by 12 News. 

The report provides new information and changes one significant detail about the standoff and its aftermath. Here are key takeaways from the 28-page report:

  • After Ryan was released from the hospital, medical professionals found his hand injury was a laceration. Initial reports that Ryan had shot himself in the hand were incorrect. Police say Ryan discharged a pistol in a bathroom, which prompted his wife's call to police at about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 6. Reports later incorrectly stated his hand wound was caused by a pellet from a beanbag that police fired at Ryan.
  • Ryan had a blood-alcohol level of 0.105, above the 0.08 legal standard for intoxication. Ryan's wife, Kathleen Ryan, told police Charles Ryan had consumed "half of a large bottle of tequila" on the day of the standoff.
  • One of the officers at the scene said he "feared for my life" after Charles Ryan didn't comply with police commands to put down the weapon in his hand. Charles Ryan was looking at the officer from inside his open garage. The officers were using a tactical vehicle in Charles Ryan's driveway as cover. One of the officers fired a shotgun beanbag at Charles Ryan. The officer would later fire a second beanbag when Ryan again refused to comply. 

The Tempe Police Department did not release body-camera video from the stand-off.

The standoff ended peacefully at 1 a.m. Jan. 7. Charles Ryan's wife and his 32-year-old daughter, who lives at the home, were unharmed. 

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel is weighing whether to file the recommended charges of aggravated assault against a police officer and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

Charles Ryan retired as Arizona corrections director in 2019, after a scathing report said he ignored persistent problems with broken prison cell locks that put both corrections officers and inmates at risk. 

The police report on the standoff said one officer was advised that Charles Ryan's wife said "Charles is a heavy alcoholic drinker and has been drinking all day and had gotten worse since he had retired."

"He has been consuming a half bottle of tequila regularly at night for the past two years," Charles Ryan's wife told police.

Officers noted that Charles Ryan seemed "dazed and confused" and couldn't or wouldn't answer questions about what had happened.

"While being given clear and concise commands (Charles) Ryan seemed extremely dazed and confused and appeared to not know what was going on," the report says.

The report clarifies how Charles Ryan suffered a hand-wound. Initial police reports said he had shot himself in the hand.

According to the report. Ryan's wife had found him in the bathroom after she heard a gunshot. 

His wife "saw his right hand was covered with blood and he was bleeding from the head," the police report said. "There was also blood on the mirror and vanity in front of him. She asked him, 'Did you just shoot yourself?' Ryan stood in front of the bathroom mirror and did not respond."

During their investigation, police determined the likely cause of the head injury and the wound to his left hand.

Charles Ryan told hospital staff that the head wound was "from falling earlier in the week." But the police report notes that the wound "looks fresh and not scabbed over." 

Investigators say "fragmentation from the unintentional firearm discharge into the (bathroom) sink caused the injury to Charles' forehead." 

The wound to his left hand was caused by pellet fragments from the beanbag. 

"The only apparent gunshot wound to Charles was that to his left hand, which surgery revealed was a lodged beanbag projectile," the report says.

When police finally entered the Ryan home, two pistols were found inches apart, one of them in a pool of blood. 

Police confiscated 16 pistols and shotguns in the home.

The police report indicates that officers had been informed Charles Ryan was a former Arizona corrections director.


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