A Life That Almost Happened

A Phoenix cop gunned down Alfonso Celaya four months ago. His family still waits for justice, or at least an explanation.

Estrella Sanchez tries to get Rafa and Omar apart and yells for help. Omar is on his back, bent over the trunk of a red car, with Rafa standing over him. Next thing she notices, Omar has a gun in his hand and Rafa is trying to get the gun away. She sees Omar fire a couple times. Then he lets go of the gun, and it falls onto the trunk of the red car.

Estrella tries to lean over and get the gun. She barely touches the tip of it, but is beaten to it by Alfonso. Alfonso hops on top of the neighboring car, gets the gun and moves to the sidewalk. Estrella looks at Alfonso and sees he is pointing the gun at the ground, which assures her he isn't going to do anything stupid. She looks at him and hears him say, "Que hago?" What do I do? Estrella sees two cops advancing toward Alfonso. She sees the big, white cop fire a couple of times.

"He wasn't going to shoot nobody!" she yells, as Alfonso falls to the ground.

Family friend Jonathan Kraut helped convince Alfonso Celaya's relatives to hire lawyers and investigate the shooting.
Paolo Vescia
Family friend Jonathan Kraut helped convince Alfonso Celaya's relatives to hire lawyers and investigate the shooting.
Alfonso Celaya's brother Hugo watches as Narvel Murrieta acts out the fight that broke out just before Alfonso was shot.
Paolo Vescia
Alfonso Celaya's brother Hugo watches as Narvel Murrieta acts out the fight that broke out just before Alfonso was shot.

Rafael "Rafa" Espinoza grabs Omar's hand -- the one holding the gun -- with one hand, and his neck with the other. He feels Omar bring the gun up, and strike it against his face. Rafa just barely turns his head out of the way as Omar fires the weapon. Omar strikes Rafa in the head, and Rafa grabs his hand. Rafa manages to shake Omar's grip on the gun loose, and the gun falls onto the hood of a car. The two men struggle between two cars that are parked closely together.

Rafa sees Alfonso slide onto the neighboring car and grab the gun. Rafa keeps Alfonso in his sights, and sees him making an effort to pull the magazine out of the pistol. Alfonso is not aiming the pistol at anyone; it is pointed at the ground. Rafa sees one officer approach. The officer fires several times at Alfonso.

Omar Mendez holds the gun in his right hand and fires into the air once or twice while in the middle of his fight with Rafa. After firing the gun he gets scared and it falls loose from his hand. He isn't sure where it falls, and he doesn't see who picks it up. He continues to fight, and hears a series of gunshots from behind him.

Mariana Espinoza hears a gunshot and sees her older brother Rafa struggling with another man. From where she stands, across the street, she sees Alfonso has picked up the gun. She doesn't see him point the gun at anyone, or even have time to point the gun, before he is shot by a police officer who issues no warning.

Antonio Mendez is trying to separate his brother, Omar, and Rafa when he hears a gunshot, fired by Omar. After the shot is fired, Antonio sees several police officers approaching. He notices a young man about eight feet from him, standing on the sidewalk. Antonio looks at the young man and does not see him pointing a gun at anyone. He sees an officer coming on the sidewalk, pointing a gun at the young man. He doesn't hear the officer say anything, but he sees the officer fire, and he sees the young man fall.

Officer Victor Escoto is near a parked car on Monroe when he hears a gunshot. Three to four cars ahead he sees a subject standing south of the fight, near the sidewalk. He observes a gun being thrown or dropped on the grassy area, and the subject bends down to pick it up. The subject points the gun at the people still fighting. Escoto hears gunfire. Escoto does not see Spalla fire, but assumes the shots came from the sergeant's gun. Escoto does not recall hearing anyone order the subject to drop the gun.

Officer Nick Wubker hears a gunshot fired from a group of people on the south side of Monroe, about five to six car lengths ahead of him. He draws his weapon and ducks down behind a vehicle. Escoto is on his left, also behind the vehicle. Wubker sees one subject separate from the fighters, raise a gun and point it at back at the fighters. He sees Spalla fire three shots. Wubker is 40 to 50 feet away at the time of the shooting.

Officer Benjamin Mayer reaches the southwest corner of 16th and Monroe with Officer Spalla. Mayer hears a gunshot. Mayer continues on the street side of the vehicles, while Spalla goes west on the sidewalk. When Mayer reaches the driver's door of the second parked car, he hears three rapid gunshots. He does not see who shot. He is 30 to 35 feet away. He does not hear any commands, and he does not see anything.

Sergeant Lowell Spalla is 10 to 15 yards from the fight when he hears a shot and sees a muzzle flash. The shot comes from a group of four people fighting.

Spalla looks back to see where the other officers are, and notices they have taken cover behind parked vehicles. Spalla is on the sidewalk on the south side of Monroe. He observes one of the males that had been involved in the fight jump over the hood of one of the cars. Another male involved in the fight then throws a gun to this person.

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Is Lowell Spalla related to the special operations officer Leon Spalla in Tucson?

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