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Standoff that started with domestic dispute sheds light on rising domestic violence

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A domestic violence call ended in a nearly 10-hour standoff and hostage situation in Tucson on Tuesday, Sept. 7. It’s the latest in a steadily increasing number of domestic violence calls and incidents in southern Arizona, police say.

According to Tucson police, Brandon Michael Watts, 36, fatally shot himself after he killed a woman police described as his girlfriend and fled to the hotel, where police say he held another woman and her four children hostage at the Siegel Select Tucson hotel.

Tucson officers said in a news release they were called shortly before 2 a.m. to the scene of a domestic dispute in the 3700 block of East 23rd Street, where they found 39-year-old Flor Del Mar Hernandez Tapia dead from gunshot wounds and a 19-year-old woman who had also been shot and was taken to Banner University Medical Center. She is expected to recover from her injuries.

Neighbors in the area said the couple had recently moved to the home about a month prior.

Domestic violence calls, according to police data, have been on the rise the last several years, with large spikes in 2020 and 2021.

In 2018, according to Tucson Police Department data, 190 domestic violence arrests were made. The next year, 2019, saw a jump to 299. When the pandemic hit, 2020 Emerge, center against domestic violence was concerned for victims stuck at home with abusers.

“It’s really become more difficult for people to have the freedom to reach out for help,” said Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, the CEO of Emerge!, a nonprofit that seeks to support victims of domestic violence.

Still, calls and arrests for domestic violence rose. According to police data, 348 arrests were made for domestic violence from TPD in 2020. So far in 2021, 253 arrests have been made, a 4.5 percent increase year-to-date from 2020. With several more months in 2021 left to go, there could be more victims.

Pima County has allocated $1 million to help expand the shelter, adding almost 40 more beds to aid victims. The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act approved by federal legislators.

According to police records, Brandon Watts, the suspect in the shooting and hostage situation, was arrested in January for domestic violence charges, was released, and then arrested again in March for assault. He was set to plead to both charges next week.

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