After downing a cheeseburger and a handful of drinks Sunday evening, Paul Rater called home and ordered his wife to come get him, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says, per the Arizona Republic. But instead of his wife showing up at the South Buckeye Equestrian Center, the cops did—and hauled him into a Maricopa County jail on child endangerment and abuse charges for allegedly leaving his 5-year-old granddaughter alone in the desert with a peculiar and perilous set of instructions. "She was given [a] gun and told to shoot any bad guys," Sheriff Joe Arpaio tells Reuters. "I don't know how a 5-year-old can tell a good guy from a bad guy, but that's what she said she was told." Deputies say the girl had been reported missing about four hours after she went out Sunday afternoon with her grandpa in his pickup truck.
It's unclear whether the truck broke down or somehow became stuck; Rater says he didn't have his cellphone on him, couldn't call for help, and started walking. The 53-year-old says his granddaughter started to complain she couldn't go further, so he left her under a tree with a .45-caliber handgun that was both loaded and cocked, per Reuters. An off-duty firefighter and the girl's grandmother found her during a frantic search; she was holding the weapon with "one round in the chamber and the hammer locked back," per a police statement. Workers at the equestrian center (a bar/restaurant/feed store) say when Rater arrived he did gripe about having to walk out of the desert but made no reference to the girl. "He came across multiple people and never thought he should call 911," deputies say in the statement. Bond for Rater was set at $25,000 on Monday, per KPHO. The girl has been returned to her mother, ABC15 notes. (Young children with guns almost never ends well.)