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KOLD Investigates: D-M investigating Air Force officer for allegedly trying to get vaccine card without getting shot

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:28 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is investigating after an officer was accused of using force in his attempt to obtain a vaccination card.

The incident allegedly happened a few weeks ago at a Tucson vaccination site.

The Air Force opened an investigation after Tucson Police notified Davis-Monthan.

The Air Force officer has not been arrested and KOLD is not releasing his name because he hasn’t been charged with any crime.

Reports of fake vaccine cards are popping up across the nation and people have been arrested for presenting, creating and selling them.

But EMT Mariella Carrasco never thought she would run into a situation like this: a military man she felt assaulted her after he flashed her some cash.

She works at Rescue Me Wellness, a vaccination site.

”A gentleman came in to get the vaccine,” Carrasco said. “Everything was going good, and we had him fill out some paperwork.”

That’s documented in a Tucson Police Department report.

Carrasco said the Air Force officer told her he got queasy getting shots and asked if he could lay down so she brought him into an exam room.

As she was getting everything set up, Carrasco clams the man offered her a bribe.

“He brought out the money to try to bribe me,” Carrasco said. “He didn’t say anything. He kind of just looked at me.”

It’s what she described to the TPD as well.

According to the police report, Carrasco said “he had not directly offered her money to fill out the paperwork falsely, but he had a wad of hundred dollar bills that he was flipping through in his hands as he asked her to do it.”

She estimated it was $400-500.

”And I shook my head and said, ‘no,” Carrasco said. “I didn’t accept the money.”

Carrasco said she told the Air Force officer “multiple times that she could and would not fill out the vaccine card without giving him the vaccine”.

Carrasco claimed he then took the syringe out of her hand.

”He proceeded to pretend to administer the vaccine,” Carrasco said. “I was in shock.”

He told her he was going to vaccinate himself.

”He went around to the backside of his arm, kind of grazed his arm,” Carrasco said. “Every time I was moving closer, he moved his arm back and as his arm was back, he shot the liquid down so it hit the table.”

She didn’t want to risk putting herself in danger, worried the situation could escalate into something threatening.

”So I just waited until he was done and I took the vaccine away,” she said.

Carrasco then left the room and reported what happened to a provider at the site. She said the Air Force officer followed her and tried to convince the nurse that he gave himself the shot.

But his attempts did not work and he did not get a vaccination card at that time.

The Air Force officer did though get a real one. He later “allowed the nurse to give him the vaccine,” and Rescue Me Wellness called Tucson Police.

Although the company says they reported bribery, intimidation, fraud and assault, the TPD case report shows it was investigated as an assault or aggravated assault.

The TPD said the case has been “cleared as disturbing the peace,” meaning the case is closed and TPD said no charges are anticipated at this time.

So why wasn’t the officer arrested?

According to the TPD report, Carrasco said she didn’t want to press charges. The TPD said that’s why they didn’t pursue that.

What about the other reported crimes?

In an email, TPD stated, “the criminal violations of solicitation, bribery or forgery did not meet the statutory requirements.”

Solicitation: “No specific conduct was discussed”

Bribery and Assault: The EMT is “not a public official”

Fraud/Forgery: “‘There was no exchange of documents” and no one “received a benefit from the incident”.

Any of those crimes could lead to charges that range from a misdemeanor all the way to a felony.

The Pima County Attorney said she couldn’t discuss the case, but criminal attorney Louis Fidel says the case is complex.

”And those are rarely simple, straightforward decisions, always a lot going on under the surface,” Fidel said. “And it’s important for everybody to understand what those factors are that caused the person to behave and do the things they did.”

He said the case can be reopened even though the EMT didn’t want to press charges.

”The police and prosecutors are certainly authorized to exercise their own judgment,” Fidel said.

As does the Air Force, which has launched a military investigation independent of the TPD. According to a statement from Davis-Monthan, the incident is under investigation and such actions “are not in line with our service’s core values.”

Per the statement, commanders have a full range of disciplinary options, which are outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to enforce its standards and hold airmen accountable for their actions.

What are a commander’s range of disciplinary options?

A former member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, Craig Sawyer, said the first thing that’ll happen is a “commander-directed investigation, interviewing witnesses and so forth,”

“There’s non-judicial punishment that can be given on the low end. And then there’s on the high end,” Sawyer said.

Depending on the severity of the crime, Sawyer said, the disciplinary options range from a letter of reprimand to a court-martial and potentially dishonorable discharge.

”So the commander really has a lot of discretion and in conjunction with the judge advocate,” Sawyer said. “They’ll deliberate over the totality of circumstances and make their best judgment on the case.”

Carrasco said the Air Force officer’s judgment is in serious question in her eyes. She said she understands why some people are hesitant about getting the vaccine, but what he did that day rattled her and other staff.

“It’s scary and uncomfortable, you know,” she said. “I have to be face to face with these patients and you know I’m the one that’s providing them with the care.”

Rescue Me Wellness has banned the Air Force officer from the vaccination site.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.