5 Arizona Officers Killed in 2010

READ THE ARTICLE ON AZCENTRAL.COM’S WEBSITE HERE

Fallen AZ Officers5 Arizona Officers Killed in 2010; State Ranks 10th in Nation

By DS Woodfill, Arizona Republic

Arizona ranked 10th in the nation in police-officer fatalities during 2011, tying with four other states, according to a Washington-based law-enforcement advocacy group.

The finding was part of a national study by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund that found firearms-related deaths were the main reason for a 13 percent increase in deaths of on-duty officers, to 173 in 2011 compared with 153 the previous year.

Three Arizona officers were fatally shot this year. There were five deaths total, with one officer dying during a training run and the other in a car accident.

Four officers died in 2010 while on duty and one died the previous year in Arizona, according to the study.

Tim Dorn, Gilbert police chief and president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, said the most troubling trend was the number of firearms-related deaths.

“If you take a look on a national level, 2010 was the worst year we’ve had in decades,” he said. “This year, we’re up from that.”

Sgt. Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, said in a statement that the deaths this year were “a chilling statistic.”

The officers who died were:

Brad Ryan Jones, a Glendale officer who was fatally shot in October. Police say Ryan Chamlee Heisler shot Jones after the officer responded to an apartment complex to help a probation officer. Heisler was wounded by other officers after he attempted to drive away in Jones’ cruiser.

Rolando Tirado, a Buckeye officer who was fatally shot in May. Police say Tirado was shot from behind while working off-duty security at El Gran Mercado, 1800 S. 35th Ave. in Phoenix, a swap meet that also hosts dances.

Aaron Peru, a San Carlos Apache officer, who died in February after a trailer came loose and hit his vehicle head-on on U.S. 70 just west of Safford.

Darrell Curley, a Navajo Nation sergeant, who died in a shootout in June. Police said Victor Bigman shot Curley four times as he tried to arrest his sons. He later pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and discharging a firearm in a violent crime.

Bart Child, an Army civilian officer, who died in August at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona during a physical-agility test. Officials said Child collapsed during a 1½-mile run in preparation for the Department of the Army Police Academy.

Arizona trailed nine other states including Florida, which had 14 deaths; Texas, which had 13; and California, which had 10. Arizona had the same number of on-duty deaths as Louisiana, New Jersey, Michigan and Virginia.

Arizona is among the states with the highest number of on-duty deaths, said study spokesman Steve Groeninger.

Dorn said it is depressing to note the number of law-enforcement personnel who have died on duty in the past decade in Arizona.

Those names are etched on fallen-officer memorials around the Valley, including Mesa, Phoenix and one that recently opened in Glendale.

“Every year, we go to the law-enforcement memorial, and the comment is always made, ‘We hope we won’t have to have another one of these next year and add another name,’ ” Dorn said. “But I’ve never been to one where we haven’t added a name to the memorial.”

Considering Arizona has the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the nation, sits on the Mexican border and has vast, open expanses of terrain with oftentimes only a handful of officers patrolling it, “quite frankly, I think we’re very fortunate that number’s not higher,” Dorn said.

Dorn is all too familiar with such tragedies. Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler, 42, was gunned down in 2010 during a routine traffic stop. Christopher Redondo is scheduled to be tried on first-degree murder charges in that case early next year.

“It’s a very troubling trend that we’re seeing,” Dorn said. “Violent crime is down considerably across our country, but the assaults and deaths on police officers are increasing.”

Sgt. Ryan Russell, president of the Mesa Police Association, linked the trend to a tougher attitude toward repeat felons that state legislatures, including Arizona’s, are taking.

Arizona has cracked down on gang-related crimes in the past decade by imposing extra penalties for crimes, Russell said. If a suspected gang member steals a car to use in a drive-by shooting, prosecutors can also charge him or her with assisting a criminal street gang, a Class 2 felony that can add five or 10 years to the sentence, he said.

As a result, Russell said, suspects with long rap sheets are more likely to act out of desperation when stopped or confronted by a police officer because they fear going back to prison for long sentences.

“They’re more likely to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to shoot it out with police.’ ”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.