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Ex-city councilman caught on camera harassing hiker for trespassing — on public trail

Elaine Norton caught her confrontation with former Mesa city councilman Bill Jaffa on camera last month. Norton was hiking on a city-owned trail when Jaffa called the police on her for trespassing.
Elaine Norton caught her confrontation with former Mesa city councilman Bill Jaffa on camera last month. Norton was hiking on a city-owned trail when Jaffa called the police on her for trespassing.

A former city councilman in Arizona was caught on camera verbally harassing a hiker for trespassing — on a city-owned trail near his house.

The woman who took the video, Elaine Norton, told ABC 15 that other hikers warned her about Bill Jaffa, who is building a home near the Hawes Loop Trail in the Las Sendas area of Mesa where she was hiking, saying he’d harassed other hikers.

“I called the city and said someone is going to get hurt,” Norton told ABC 15.

The video, which was posted to YouTube, shows a man, identified as Bill Jaffa, coming toward Elaine Norton, who is holding the camera, according to ABC 15.

“It’s not your property,” Norton says as the video begins.

“What does the trail say? What does the trail say,” Jaffa yells, gesturing with one hand.

Then Norton asks: “Are you being aggressive with me?”

The video shows Jaffa calling police and speaking to a dispatcher.

“Yeah, I’ve got a woman trespassing on our property, could you send police over right away? We feel that we’re threatened,” he says.

Norton tries to interject, first saying, “Excuse me?” and then adding, “It is not an emergency. I’m on the trail at Las Sendas.”

“The woman is very aggressive,” Jaffa tells the dispatcher.

“I am not aggressive! I’m recording myself as well,” Norton says. Jaffa and the woman talk over each other, arguing about her trespassing on his property, and then he tells the dispatcher: “I can’t tell if she has weapons or not.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes!” Norton says in the video. “I’m on a hiking trail. He jumped over his fence and he physically threatened me to get off his property, which wasn’t even on his side of the fence.” Jaffa tells the dispatcher that Norton is trespassing, when she says, “No, it’s not trespassing.”

“We want her arrested,” Jaffa tells the dispatcher.

Jaffa is a former Mesa city councilman, according to 12 News.

“He’s jumping over his fence, he’s yelling at people, his wife’s yelling at people, he says that they’re threatening him, he says that they’re trespassing,” Shawn Stenmark, a resident of the area, told 12 News. “It’s not just a one time. One time — all right, he had a bad day.”

Stenmark told 12 News that Jaffa does not bother people who stay on one side of the trail, but will verbally attack people who stray from that.

“I’ve heard of quite a few occurrences of him blocking people or trying to discourage hikers,” a neighbor, Nathan Rassi, told CBS 5.

CBS 5 published a statement from Jaffa that acknowledged his interaction with Norton and apologized.

“It was not my intention to cause stress to this hiker, for that is not who I am as an individual, or professional, but want to offer my apologies for any anxiety I may have caused her. I also want to apologize to the members of the community that have been impacted,” the statement reads, in part.

A statement from the City of Mesa given to both CBS 5 and 12 News says the city re-routed a portion of the hiking trail near Jaffa’s property “out of an abundance of caution.”

“This new part of the trail was never on Mr. Jaffa’s property. In fact, it shifted the trail farther away from his property,” the city’s statement reads. It says the city will install a fence barrier between the trail and Jaffa’s property to “clearly mark the property line.”

A Victorville city councilwoman was arrested Thursday on suspicion of trespassing at Hesperia City Hall. She recorded the arrest on her cell phone in a livestream.

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