Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his tough stance on crime and illegal immigration
, has purchased 400 AR-15-style rifles for his deputies to give the officers "enough firepower to fight back" against criminals who he says are in possession of increasingly high-power weapons.
Arpaio made the announcement the same day 27-year-old Jorge Vargas, a Maricopa County sheriff's detention officer, was shot dead in his driveway as he was leaving for work.
"We live in a violent society, even here in Maricopa County, and across our nation, and the least we can do is to arm our deputies…," the 81-year-old lawman said, Fox 10 News reported. "My deputies will carry guns 24 hours a day, even off duty.
If they see any incident occurring, they will take action anywhere in this valley."
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The money used to purchase the 400 AR-15 style Smith & Wesson rifles was seized by authorities during arrests, Fox News reported
Similar rifles are often carried by SWAT and canine unit officers in police department across the United States.
Vargas was in uniform when he was shot in his driveway at approximately 4 a.m. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital, Sgt. Trent Crump told The Associated Press.
The assailant, who reportedly fired several shots at Vargas, was described by witnesses who saw him fleeing the scene as a male Hispanic in his 20s. Sketches have been released by authorities, but no arrests have been made, ABC15 reported
An eight-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office Custody Support Bureau, Vargas often came into contact with inmates, according to Arpaio, who refused to speculate about the shooter's motivations.
"I won't call it an assassination or an execution," Arpaio said. "Right now, I'll call it a murder."
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"Watch out," he added. "We're ready for battle and we're going to take whatever action we need."
Arpaio added that Vargas' work often included intelligence gathering and assisting Phoenix police with investigations, Fox 10 News reported.
Vargas leaves behind a wife and 5-year-old son. The officer's family was reportedly not home when the shooting occurred.
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