Fallen Police Officer David Uribe Is Honored with a Street-Sign Dedication as His Alleged Killer Stands Trial

On the morning of Friday, April 17, under a brilliant blue sky reminiscent of a terrible day almost four years ago, David Uribe's friends and family gathered on West Cactus Road near 33rd Avenue.

Weeks ago, the Phoenix Police Department scheduled the memorial service and street-sign dedication to the fallen officer, who was killed at this spot on May 10, 2005.

The agency decided not to postpone the event even though Officer Uribe's alleged killer, Donald Delahanty, is now on trial for first-degree murder. Delahanty, 22, could face the death penalty if convicted.

The scene on West Cactus Road last Friday morning, moments after the sign was unveiled.
Paul Rubin
The scene on West Cactus Road last Friday morning, moments after the sign was unveiled.

The memorial took place around 11 a.m., about the same time that Officer Uribe, a 48-year-old veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, pulled over a late-model Monte Carlo with tinted windows.

Uribe was an easy-going cop who never had gone for rank. He worked the streets (and off-duty security jobs) as a means to an end, which was to provide for his wife and kids, and to be able to collect some toys, such as the boat he took out to Lake Pleasant whenever he could.

He was in the homestretch of a 22-year police career that day in 2005, as a beloved member of the 92 Bravo squad responsible for patrolling the sprawling Cactus Park precinct in the west and northwest parts of town.

For no reason that will ever make any sense, what started as a routine traffic stop suddenly and tragically ended Dave Uribe's life.

The officer carefully walked up to the Monte Carlo on an adjacent frontage road and asked the driver, Christopher Michael Wilson, for his license and registration. Wilson, a methamphetamine dealer in his mid-20s, told Uribe that his Indiana driver's license was suspended.

Wilson later told Phoenix police detective Jack Ballentine that Uribe was reaching into his shirt pocket for a pen or notepad when Donald Delahanty, an 18-year-old friend in the front passenger's seat, reached in front of him.

According to Wilson, another passenger in the car, and passersby, Delahanty quickly shot the officer several times in the face and neck with a .380-caliber semi-automatic. (Delahanty denied any wrongdoing after his arrest, first blaming the shooting on a "hitchhiker" they'd picked up and, later, on Wilson himself.)

Uribe dropped straight back to the ground, unconscious and fatally wounded. Numerous passersby immediately came to the officer's aid as Wilson sped off through an adjacent residential neighborhood.

An intense manhunt ensued over the next few days, as investigators sorted out who owned the Monte Carlo — which was abandoned by Wilson, Delahanty, and another man less than a mile from the shooting — and where they might be.

New Times wrote extensively about this case in the paper's "Murder City" series ("The Case of the Grim Tweaker," June 2, 2006).

Three days after the murder, Wilson and Delahanty surrendered to police in the southwest Phoenix trailer park where they had been hiding. The Monte Carlo's third passenger, Johnny Armendariz, turned himself into the cops after learning of the arrests. Armendariz, who was dubbed "Backseat Johnny" by detectives, was not charged with any crimes and became an important prosecution witness against the alleged shooter, Delahanty.

Chris Wilson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Though he apparently wasn't the shooter, Wilson testified that he handed Delahanty his gun as the officer was pulling him over. He said Delahanty used that gun instead of his own weapon to kill Uribe.

Wilson still hasn't been sentenced but has been incarcerated since his May 2005 arrest and certainly will remain locked up for years to come.

Wilson told a Maricopa County jury that Delahanty got it into his methamphetamine-addled brain that killing a cop — any cop — would be a kick.

That's not exactly a motive, but it appears to be the closest thing to one in this case.

Several others, including Backseat Johnny (a friend of Delahanty's, not Chris Wilson's), corroborated Wilson's chilling account.

While the case against Delahanty isn't perfect (cases rarely are), it seems solid.

Delahanty has a chance only if the jury believes Chris Wilson was the shooter and that Delahanty simply was minding his own business when it all went down.

That outcome seems unlikely.

On Cactus Road last Friday, the brief but poignant memorial ceremony began.

The police temporarily closed Cactus to vehicles between 31st and 35th avenues. About 50 uniformed Phoenix officers — chiefs, patrol cops, and every rank in-between — lined up on the south side of the street.

On the frontage road, several members of the investigative task force who arrested the suspects quietly reminisced.

Jack Ballentine, who spearheaded the investigation, stood beside Alex Femenia, his longtime partner on the police force. The pair recalled ups and downs of the manhunt, the arrests, and, finally, the interrogations of key players Delahanty, Wilson, and Backseat Johnny.

Both cops since have retired from the department (Ballentine now heads the arson unit at the Phoenix Fire Department, and Femenia is an investigator at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office) but have remained close to the goings-on in the case. Femenia, who was in charge of the crime scene, has been sitting at the prosecutor's table during Delahanty's trial.

Also at the streetside ceremony were the detectives' direct supervisors in the Delahanty case, Commander Benny Pina and Sergeant Patrick Kotecki, as well as famed cop Jason Schechterle, who's also now retired but whose work as a detective on the Uribe case was memorable.

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2 comments
david saint
david saint

just wanted to send condolences and best wishes to the Uribe family..as i read more and more about the man it just breaks my heart that such senselessness and lack of respect for life by this dumbass kid led to this..great man sounds like, and im sure his son and grandson will continue that small legacy...

Mike V
Mike V

God Bless Officer Uribe and all of the Uribe Family. My family will never forget the Fallen Officers of Arizona. They are among the protectors of my wife and kids. We salute each Fallen Officer and ask God for his blessings on their families. We will never forget!!!!

 
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