By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Unhappy over a lease deal he'd signed the day before, Callan pointed his weapon at sales manager Nathan Smith, and told him to hang up the phone or he'd shoot. He ordered Smith to redo the deal.
Smith told the man with a gun that first he'd have to talk to his supervisor. Callan told him to do just that.
Moments earlier, Callan, unsuccessful at getting the lease contract reworked, had stormed out to his new 2001 Toyota Tacoma truck, retrieved the shotgun, fired it once into the ground, then returned with it to the showroom.
Phoenix police officer Geoff White and Sergeant Don Casey happened to be parked a few hundred yards away when Callan discharged his weapon. The pair and a third officer were in a parking lot next to Bell Road Toyota, questioning a woman about an accident that had just occurred a mile north.
It was a windy Sunday morning. White wondered at first if the bang had come from one of the balloons that salespeople had put up that Labor Day weekend trying to lure customers to the dealership, at 2020 West Bell.
But Sergeant Casey then saw two men run out of a building into the parking lot, gesturing frantically. He and White jumped into their patrol cars and drove into the dealership, leaving their suspect with the other officer at the scene.
"One of the men told me, He got a shotgun and he just went into the building,'" says Casey, an 18-year police veteran. "I now assumed that the bang had been a shot."
Casey parked about 50 feet from the entrance to the used-car building, as White pulled in closer to the entrance. Brian Callan exited the building just a few seconds after White parked his cruiser.
The officer saw a stocky, middle-aged man wearing a ball cap, sunglasses, blue jeans and black military-style boots. Then he saw the shotgun.
"I see the butt of the man's rifle, and I instantly come out of my car with my weapon drawn," White tells New Times. "All I have for protection is my driver's side door. I give him a command, Drop the weapon!' He points it toward his chest, says, They fucked me here,' and pulls the trigger. But it doesn't discharge -- he'd forgotten to rechamber the round after he fired it into the ground."
Though he's a rookie with the Phoenix Police Department, the 24-year-old White had worked for four years as a corrections officer at the Maricopa County Jail. During that time, he says, he'd negotiated successfully with more than one suicidal inmate.
But this was different. For one thing, the subject in front of White had the potential to kill others, not just himself.
"But the man never once pointed the weapon toward me or my sergeant, or I probably would have shot him," White continues. "I say, Hey, man, it's just a car. It's not worth it.' He goes, No, they fucked me here.' Then he pulled the trigger and died."
No more than a minute had passed since the officers entered Bell Road Toyota's property.
Afterward, investigators learned a bit about the man whose life had stopped so suddenly and strangely in the used-car lot.
Laurence Brian Callan II was 44 years old, and he lived in Tempe. He was an ex-Marine chief warrant officer with mental and physical infirmities that military authorities had deemed 100 percent connected to his 15 and a half years in the service.
In a pants pocket, the investigators found a laminated, typed list of the many medications Callan had been prescribed by his psychiatrist at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Administration Medical Center. The list included drugs designed to moderate anger, depression, anxiety and other debilitating mental conditions.
Because Callan's death clearly was a suicide, homicide detectives wouldn't spend much time trying to assess his motivations. But his loved ones would do just that.
One of Callan's four brothers, Bob Callan, of Taos, New Mexico, had spoken to him the previous day during and after leasing the Toyota truck. Bob Callan says his brother expressed enormous reservation about the deal.
Callan's mother, Jerri Glover, says her son seemed pleased with the Tacoma and showed it off to her, but also was very concerned about how much he'd owe Bell Road Toyota at the end of the five-year lease if he chose to buy it.
That evening, Callan attended Arizona State University's home football game with longtime family friend Peggy Hutchens. Hutchens says Callan ruminated aloud all game long if leasing the truck had been the right way to go.
The day after the shooting, brief news accounts mentioned the unnamed guy who'd killed himself over a soured car deal. The tragedy then quickly faded from public memory. But more than 200 people attended Callan's memorial service at Carr Mortuary in Tempe, paying their respects and seeking answers.
An examination by New Times of Callan's military, medical and Veterans Affairs records, interviews with his family members, friends and others, reveals the following: