TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Justice Court Judge Adam Watters has been placed on administrative leave with pay following an altercation in which the judge fired a warning shot into the ground.
Watters and his family had been harassed by a man for nearly two weeks in February stemming from a court case in January where the judge refused to evict a family which had fallen behind on their rent.
The family noticed garbage was being tossed in their yard nearly every day beginning in early February and the tires on their truck has been slashed, not once but twice.
The family reported it to the Sheriff’s Department which promised stepped up patrols in the judge’s Foothills neighborhood.
Despite the stepped up patrols, the garbage dumping continued and it appeared near the same time every day, around noon.
So the judge and his two daughters positioned themselves in hiding spots in the front yard of the home on Valentines Day.
They knew the car they were looking for because it had been photographed by a neighbor. They knew it was a grey Subaru with a male driver.
When it showed up on time, Watters rushed out with his phone shooting video of the confrontation.
It’s unclear if the judge had brandished the weapon at this time or whether it was in is pocket.
The man, identified as a Tucson landlord, Fei Qin, stopped his car in front of the judge.
A verbal confrontation broke out with the Judge ordering Qin out of the car and to show his hands.
According to one of the Judge’s daughters, Qin lunged at Watters, and he fired the shot into the ground as a warning.
A sheriff’s deputy arrived seconds later ending what might have been a more severe confrontation.
Qin was arrested and charged with stalking and causing fear among the family. He’s in the Pima County jail awaiting a hearing March 5. In his statements to the deputies, he denied knowing Watters and denied throwing garbage in his yard.
Judge Watters was placed on administrative leave for two weeks with pay.
His attorney, Mike Storie, said it’s routine when a gun is fired in a hostile situation to give the person time to “decompress”, which has says is why Watters is off the bench for the time being.
His conduct will be scrutinized by an independent council.
“It could be a felony he faces if they want to charge him with a crime,” Storie said.
But Storie believes the circumstances of the confrontation and weeks of hazing means the judge should be exonerated.
“I can’t step outside my house and fire a gun into the ground but given the right circumstances, it’s absolutely justified,” he said. “And in this case it was justified.”
The judge handled an eviction case in January where Qin was trying to have a family evicted for non payment of rent.
However, because of the eviction moratorium, the judge denied the request.
Even though it was a virtual hearing, there were words between Watters and Qin when the judge refused the eviction.
The case also brings up other issues when it comes to judges, who are not protected.
A quick Google search can find a judges home address, unlike police officers and other security sensitive professions which have a protected status and addresses and not given out.
“The system let him down,” Storie said. “Provided no protection against a crazy guy with a history of craziness and stalking and violence.”