Fare Game

Why did Phoenix police let an armed and dangerous suspect climb into an unwitting cabdriver's back seat before they opened fire?

The chain of events that would put Leyvas in harm's way began when Rustin Lee Dood's ancient 1985 Honda died on the side of I-17 just north of Glendale. Dood, a 29-year-old Phoenix woman, and Troy Davis, 27, were left stranded.

Davis was a longtime resident of the land of murky decisions and toxic habits. He'd been steadily eroding for eight years into low-rent crimes and a meth addiction. A ninth-grade dropout, he'd been arrested several times for assault, domestic violence and drug-related crimes. He drank heavily after his girlfriend left him and their daughter, Savanna.

In the last three years of his life, Davis' slide gained speed. He lived on the streets for months at a time, leaving his daughter with his mother and stepfather. He was busted in 1995 for trying to sell a quarter of meth in front of two Phoenix cops. His buyer got away, but Davis, who didn't see the police behind him, was taken into custody. While awaiting trial on that charge, he was arrested again for selling meth to two undercover officers.

Davis' family pleaded with the court not to send Davis to prison. They wrote heartbreaking letters to the judge, insisting that their Troy was not really a bad person. Davis' stepfather promised Davis would have a job and a place to live waiting when he got back on the street. His brother told the court about Troy giving his Christmas money to a poor neighbor when he was a kid. His family even bought him a health-club membership so he could "get back in shape."

On the strength of those letters and a favorable presentence report, Davis was put on probation for both felonies.

But what was wrong in Davis was more than could be fixed by time on the Stairmaster.

Davis got caught in 1997 for possession--meth, again--and forgery. He avoided prison this time by promising to complete a rehab program. He didn't.

The Troy Davis in his family's letters was gone. Only his mother, Diana Gray, got close to what was left of him when she wrote the judge in 1997:

"I know for sure he never wants to go back to jail. He has been there long enough to know that he don't ever want to go back."

Maybe that's why, when DPS Officer Newmark stopped to talk to him, Davis took off running.

Newmark was a 41-year-old rookie, just three months into her field training after a career as a nurse. A mother of four, Newmark had made the decision to join her husband, a 15-year veteran with the highway patrol, as a cop. Just after 3 p.m. on February 6, she saw Dood and Davis standing by the disabled Honda on I-17 and pulled over.

Newmark had just gotten Davis' name down on her notepad when he bolted. He scrambled up and over a chain-link fence and took off running down the road along the freeway.

Newmark got back in her car to follow him, leaving Dood behind, on the side of the freeway. She eventually found Davis, pedaling a stolen bicycle near 25th Avenue and Myrtle.

Newmark wasn't going to try to approach Davis without back-up. She followed him in her patrol car and radioed for help.

But Davis surprised her by doubling back to her car. Newmark later said he put a gun up to her window and ordered her out of the car.

When Newmark hesitated for just a moment, Davis put a bullet through the glass. Newmark was hit in her chin and neck. She could see her skin and tissue flying away from the impact.

Davis took off again. A few blocks away, he ditched the bicycle and stole a car at gunpoint. The car was later found near 39th Avenue and Camelback. Davis was nowhere around.

Remarkably, Newmark drove herself to a nearby fire station while she called in the shooting. Paramedics were just pulling out of the driveway as she rolled up. They took her to John C. Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

The news of Newmark's shooting spread fast over the police bands.
"At first it's just chaos" when a fellow officer is shot, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Terry Sills says. The radios begin shouting with voices of dozens of cops. "Everybody wants to get there to help. That's inbred in public safety officers and law enforcement. Then they want to help catch the guy."

A battalion of police descended onto the scene, searching for the shooter. Davis--never a master criminal--had left plenty of clues. His name was still on Newmark's pad. Newmark selected his mug shot in a photo lineup, and a clear thumbprint from the Honda confirmed his identity.

Davis became the Valley's most wanted man. "MOM COP SHOT," a headline in the Arizona Republic blared in end-of-the-world type. A $3,000 reward was offered by Silent Witness and the Arizona Highway Patrolmen's Association. DPS and the Phoenix police held a joint press conference about the case. Newmark, just out of the hospital, was there, too, the wound still fresh on her face.

The cops had checked more than 100 leads, they announced, but were coming up dry.

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