Tag Archives: Tucson

30 years after heist, museum hopes to get piece back

An empty wooden frame once occupied by Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” sits at the center of a gallery at the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art in Tucson. 

Next to it are the composite drawings of two people police say stole the painting the day after Thanksgiving in 1985. The museum wants to remind visitors of the heist in hopes that a new lead in the 30-year unsolved mystery will appear. 

“We have not given up hope about getting the painting back,” Gina Compitello-Moore, the museum’s marketing director, said. “By not having it, it’s almost as if a member of our family is missing.”

The painting by the abstract expressionist was stolen on Nov. 29, 1985 from the small museum that also has works by Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe. 

The museum had just opened when a man and a woman walked in. They were the sole visitors. The woman, described as being in her mid-50s with shoulder-length reddish and blond hair, distracted the a security guard by making small-talk while the man, who appeared to be in his 20s and wore a mustache and glasses, cut the painting from the large frame, leaving the edges of the canvass attached. 

Within minutes, they were gone, taking with them one of the museum’s most important pieces. The painting was valued at about $600,000 when it was stolen. 

“We have no idea why this particular painting was stolen. It could have been the size of the work. It could have been that this is probably his most recognized work,” Compitello-Moore said.

Brian Seastone, the university’s police chief, was an officer back then who helped investigate the heist. He says the department, along with the FBI and other agencies working the theft, received a number of tips that led them nowhere. 

“The gentleman pretty much knew what he wanted, it appeared, and went upstairs. And after a few minutes they both left very quickly and it drew the attention of the security officer who was there,” Seastone said. “Since then, it’s kind of become not a legend but one of those things that’s out there that people will talk about once in a while.” 

Seastone says the man’s mustache and glasses may have been fake, an effort to disguise himself, and that the woman also may have been in costume.

Compitello-Moore said now is a good time to bring attention to the stolen painting because it could have changed hands by now, and its owner could not know they have a stolen piece. 

“We’re happy to have to have the frame in there but we of course wish it were the painting,” she said.

Former intern who rushed to Giffords’ rescue target of anti-gay political campaign

Opponents seeking to unseat Daniel Hernandez Jr. from a local school board in Arizona are using anti-gay material in their campaign.

One flyer says, “Put a REAL man on the Sunnyside Board,” states that Hernandez is “LGBT” and asserts “We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who HATES our values.”

A second flyer says Hernandez only cares about taking away guns from people.

Both are encouraging support for the recall of Hernandez from the Tucson-area school board. To hold a recall, petitioners need to collect about 1,300 signatures by mid-December.

Hernandez gained some national notice in politics in 2011. He’s the openly gay former intern who rushed to care for Gabriele Giffords after a shooting outside a supermarket where she was holding a congressional meet-and-greet.

RightWingWatch, a campaign affiliated with the liberal People for the American Way group, reported that four Sunnyside Unified School District members are targeted in one recall effort, launched over the members’ support of a school superintendent. Another recall effort has been launched against two members who opposed the superintendent, including Hernandez.

“But the tactics being used against Hernandez are unusual,” RightWingWatch said, referring to the flyers.

Out gay man to run for Gabby Giffords’ congressional seat

Out gay state Rep. Matt Heinz will run for the southern Arizona congressional seat vacated by fellow Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords resigned last week, saying she needs to concentrate on recovery from a brain injury she suffered in a January 2011 shooting spree in Tucson that left six people dead.

Heinz says he’ll run this spring in a special election to pick an interim replacement for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

A staff physician at Tucson Medical Center, Heinz currently represents Tucson in the Arizona House of Representatives. He described himself to press as politically similar to Giffords.

“Moving forward I believe the best thing that we can do is to honor her strength, and conviction, and her leadership, by getting somebody, quickly, because we don’t have much time, into that seat who is going to carry forward in the tradition of moderate, bipartisan, common sense governance that she did so well for Southern Arizona,” Heinz said.

Another state legislator, Republican Sen. Frank Antenori, has also announced that he’ll run for Giffords’ seat. According to Arizona media outlets, other prospective candidates have indicated they’ll make a decision soon. If they decide to run, they have less than a month to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Although Giffords is a Democrat, the district leans Republican.

Gay hero to sit with first lady during State of the Union

Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay student hailed as a hero for helping to save the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the moments after she was shot in the head in Tucson, will sit with Michelle Obama during the president’s State of the Union address. The Jan 25 event coincides with Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

Also invited to sit with the first lady is Hernandez’s father, Daniel Hernandez Sr.

“I’m both honored and excited to have the opportunity to travel to our nation’s Capitol for a once in a lifetime event,” Hernandez said. “Also the chance to bring my father along for his first trip to Washington, D.C. The State of the Union is a pivotal moment because it is our opportunity to find where we are and where we will be going as a nation in this upcoming year.”

The out gay intern, a political science major at the University of Arizona and a member of the Tucson Commission on GLBT Issues, had been working with Giffords’ office for less than a week when he was assigned to help with traffic control and register constituents during Giffords’ Congress on Your Corner meeting outside a Tucson Safeway Jan. 8.

That Saturday morning meeting was disrupted by gunfire. Jared L. Loughner, 22, is accused of shooting 20 people – killing six and wounding 14. Using his nursing training, Hernandez began tending to the victims. He checked for pulses, going from victim to victim.

When he saw Giffords lying on the ground, Hernandez rushed to her, brought her to his chest so that she wouldn’t choke on her blood and applied pressure to the wound in her forehead, first using his hands and then using butcher smocks from the grocery store.

Doctors said Hernandez’s actions saved Giffords’ life.

Gay man denies he acted heroically in shooting

The openly gay aide credited with saving the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says he’s not a hero.

In a CNN interview with Daniel Hernandez, 20, he credited emergency responders with saving Giffords’ life and said she and other public servants are the real heroes.

“It just makes me happy that I was able to help her in any way that I could,” Hernandez told CNN.

Hernandez was serving as an intern to Giffords when she was shot in the head during a public meeting with constituents on Jan. 8 in front of a Tucson grocery store.

Many people have branded Hernandez a hero for his bravery and quick thinking in the moments following the tragedy, which took six lives and wounded 12. During a speech on Jan. 11, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer requested – and got – a standing ovation for Hernandez.

Hernandez is openly gay and a member of the City of Tucson Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. A student at the University of Arizona, he had begun working for Giffords only five days before the shooting.

Hernandez recounted on ABC’s “This Week” how he’d used smocks from the grocery store to bandage the wounded victims and used his hand to apply pressure to the entry wound on Giffords’ forehead.

“Once I saw that she was down and there were more than one victim, I went ahead and started doing the limited triage that I could with what I had … checking for pulses and then … covering and applying pressure to the wounds.

“I had to lift up the congresswoman because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe OK because there was so much blood,” he said.

“The congresswoman was alert. She was able to hold my hand when I asked her if she could hear me. I wasn’t able to get any words from her.”

State Rep. Matt Heinz, who is also a physician at University Medical Center where Giffords was taken, told the Arizona Republic that the quick reaction of Hernandez probably saved the congresswoman’s life.

After hearing on NPR that Giffords had died, Hernandez said he was “ecstatic” to learn later that she was still alive.

“She was one of the people I’ve looked up to,” he said. “Knowing she was alive and still fighting was good news. She’s definitely a fighter, whether for her own life, or standing up for people in southern Arizona.”

Giffords is a gay rights supporter

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D – Ariz., is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Giffords survived being shot in the head Jan. 8 while holding a public meeting with her constituents in Tucson. Eighteen people were shot in the melee and six have died, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Giffords was elected to represent Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District in 2006 after Jim Kolbe, an openly gay Republican, retired from the seat.

After her House victory in 2006, Giffords made the following statement, according to HRC:

“I have stood up for equality in Arizona, and I am grateful that HRC and the GLBT community stood with our campaign during the primary and the general elections. We can accomplish so much for our families when we work together. Fairness is an essential American value, and when we champion fairness, we can win decisive victories in even the most competitive congressional districts.”

Giffords narrowly won re-election in November over a Tea Party-backed candidate. During the campaign, Sarah Palin posted a map on the Internet with Giffords’ district depicted in the crosshairs of a rifle scope. “Don’t retreat, reload,” Palin’s headline said.

The window of Giffords’ office was smashed last March after she voted for healthcare reform.

Although Palin targeted Giffords, she is a moderate who was once affiliated with the Republican Party and a strong supporter of gun owners’ rights. People who knew her said she succeeded by listening to all sides.

Giffords “has been a very successful politician, a very successful representative” through an engaging personality and by being centrist on many issues, Kolbe told the Associated Press.

“I think she engages people. You have to work hard to not like Gabby Giffords,” Kolbe said. “She would talk to anybody and meet with anybody.”

Giffords is married to astronaut Mark E. Kelly.