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 tip that would trigger the shoot-out around Leyvas' cab didn't arrive until 3 a.m. on February 12.

Detective Kenneth Proudfit, the night detective on duty for the Phoenix police, got a call from the Sunnyslope Juvenile Detention Office. An informant had come in to say he knew where Troy Davis could be found. The informant had to remain secret because he feared for his life if anyone found out he was the one who'd turned Davis in. Proudfit agreed.

A couple days before, the informant told Proudfit, a friend came by his place with a big guy named Troy. The friend wanted to know if Troy could stay a while because he was in trouble. The informant said sure, and Troy stayed with him for the next two nights.

On Wednesday, the friend came back and said someone had "snitched on Troy" and Troy had to get out. The informant agreed to take Troy to a motel. He rented a room under his own name with a $50 bill that Troy gave him and $10 of his own.

The informant got Troy checked in about 4 p.m. At 4:20, he went back home and picked up Sunday's newspaper. The man in the picture had long hair, but the informant realized the guy who'd been staying with him was the same man wanted for shooting a cop in the face.

And, he learned, there was a reward.
About 10 p.m., the informant called Davis at the Motel 6. He asked if Troy needed anything to eat, and Davis said he'd ordered a pizza and was going to crash.

The informant waited almost five hours before going to police to cash in on his knowledge.

Proudfit and two other detectives went to the Motel 6 to confirm the informant's story.

The desk clerk verified that someone had checked into Room 227 using the name of the informant. Proudfit and the other two detectives staked out 227 as they waited for back-up.

Davis' choice of the motel was the only good decision he'd made in the series of colossally stupid moves that started when he ran from the DPS officer. It is one of a cluster of generic overnight stops along I-10, designed to provide anonymous shelter and minimal human contact. If his friend hadn't sold him out for $3,000, it's possible no one ever would have known he was there.

But now that the police had him, they weren't about to let him get away.
Sergeant Chuck Mount, commander of Special Assignments Unit Sam 52, was called in at 5:20 in the morning. He paged his team and had them converge on the Motel 6.

As the SAU members started to show up, Proudfit drove downtown and briefed Detective Mike Meislish, the investigator heading up the probe into Newmark's shooting. Meislish got a search warrant for Room 227 and Troy Davis.

Four hours later, around 9:30 a.m., a second SAU squad showed up at the motel to assist. There were now 17 SAU members--plus about a half-dozen other cops--surrounding the motel. The officers parked their undercover vehicles in strategic positions in the lot; two cops moved into the room next to Davis; another three took a room across the courtyard.

Then, they sat and waited.
At 10:30 a.m., the front desk clerk called Davis' room to ask if he'd be staying. Davis said he'd be checking out and that he had a ride coming, police reports say.

An hour later, Frank Leyvas showed up in his TLC taxi.
Police say shooting broke out because Davis refused to put his hands up when officers approached the cab, and instead aimed a gun at one of the SAU officers.

Officers Mike Perry and Vic Roman pumped a total of five rounds into the cab from an assault rifle and a shotgun. Davis died in the back seat, his face blown off by a bullet that struck him in the back of the head and kept on going.

Leyvas, trying to scrunch down and out of the way, was hit in the neck and forearm by bullet fragments.

One Phoenix police officer, Greg Redmon, was standing at the front of the cab where he was hit in the shoulder by a bullet ricocheting off the cab's window frame.

Leyvas and Redmon were lucky. A bullet lodged in the dashboard, just a few feet from Leyvas' head. Shotgun blasts also hit the front windshield, the rearview mirror and the back of the driver's seat.

Just after the shooting, fire department medics took a video of their first aid efforts. In it, Leyvas watches the chaos all around him with the glazed look of a man at the edge of a plane crash. When a paramedic asks him if he's hurt or just pissed, Leyvas says, "Pissed." He is the last to be helped to an ambulance.

He and Redmon were both taken to the hospital, treated and released the same day.

TV news copters buzzed overhead and reporters clamored at the edge of the crime-scene ribbon.

Police found two guns on Davis in the taxi: the first was the Walther PPK .9 mm, still in Davis' lap. They also took a .22 Magnum five-shot derringer from the pocket of his leather jacket. Neither had been fired.

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