Blue Crush

To outsiders, the Phoenix Police Department's Special Assignments Unit is meant to be an overwhelming show of force. The inside story is much more powerful.

By 10:15 a.m., a dozen SAU officers are surrounding Room 324. Jan Dubina and Rich Shore, a squad negotiator, use the phone in a hotel office to try to talk Jones and his girlfriend into surrendering.

Stan Hoover is scooting between the patrol officers who have already spent hours wrapped up in the intense dynamics of an officer-involved shooting and the paramedics who have just rolled up. His radio is in one hand, his cell phone in another. Both go off at once. "See, I'm multi-tasking," he jokes.

This time, the Fourth Floor does indeed make an appearance, in the form of Assistant Chief Mike Frazier, who oversees the department's North Zone. Hoover's own boss, Commander Steve Campbell, is there, too. After the usual handshakes and a briefing, they pretty much stay out of Hoover's way.

The SAU team strikes out to deliver a high-risk search warrant to a drug house.
The SAU team strikes out to deliver a high-risk search warrant to a drug house.
Officer Bob Wallace waits in the Special Assignments Unit van before a  felony search warrant. The SAU handles "high risk" warrants for other units when the suspects are thought to be armed or otherwise dangerous.
Officer Bob Wallace waits in the Special Assignments Unit van before a felony search warrant. The SAU handles "high risk" warrants for other units when the suspects are thought to be armed or otherwise dangerous.

Details

Photography by Jackie Mercandetti

And the media are out in force, of course. TV helicopters whine overhead. The press pack -- a dozen print and broadcast reporters -- is held at bay by a yellow police tape that is cutting off access to the hotel parking lot where, this time, the trunk of a patrol car has become the command post.

By 10:45 a.m., the SAU tactical team is ready to move in. But the negotiators have been talking to Jones as well as his girlfriend. They think they can get her to open the door. A paramedic is enlisted to explain the potential seriousness of his wounds in an effort to convince him to come out.

For the next 15 minutes, SAU negotiators in the office and the tactical team outside the hotel room door relay a ping-pong of information to those listening on the radio at the command post. The girl tells the negotiators she's helping him to the door; the officers watch as the couple tries for the door, then heads back deeper into the room. This happens several times.

"Frankly, Lieutenant, he just seems to be stalling," Dubina reports to Hoover. "Now we're trying to get the girlfriend out."

The officers just outside the room take it from there:

"We can't see him but she's putting something on the bed . . . She's right in front of the window . . . She's trying to open the door . . . Oh, she walked away from the door toward the back . . . She's kneeling down next to him on the floor . . . Okay, she's trying to help him now . . . God, don't back up on us now . . . I see both hands are up . . . All right, we're rolling in."

At 11:15 a.m., Jones is in custody, the girlfriend detained by police detectives. Not a shot has been fired, by either side, although the SAU finds an AK-47 and two shotguns in the room.

Reporters and photographers are finally let through to get their close-ups, just in time for the noon news shows. That night, the evening news footage stops for a minute on the SAU officers deployed around the outside of the building. Their tactical gear makes for good TV.

Hoover, unknown to the press, slips through the cameras and walks up to the room in time to see Jones being loaded onto a stretcher by medics, then wheeled away.

"You get a feeling when you get to some of these things, when to negotiate, when to go tactical," he says, careful not to step on shell casings scattered on the asphalt.

"There are a lot of moving parts."

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