Two Buckeye police officers were shot early yesterday morning after stopping a truck that was being driven erratically in a west Phoenix parking lot. One of the officers was taken to a Valley hospital in critical condition and is expected to survive. The other officer wasn't as fortunate -- he died at the scene.
The two officers, Rolando Tirado and Christopher Paz, were doing off-duty security work for a dance at the El Gran Mercado at 1800 South 35th Avenue when they spotted a Chevy Tahoe driving erratically in the parking lot.
Once the Tahoe was pulled over, Tirado approached the driver's side. As he was doing so, 23-year-old Cesar Tomas Quiroz Leon -- who Phoenix police tell New Times has an "extensive" criminal past in California -- got out of the passenger seat, walked around the back of the SUV and fatally shot Tirado without warning.
After shooting Tirado, Leon and Paz engaged in what Phoenix police describe as a "life or death gun battle," during which Leon was fatally shot.
Paz suffered several gunshot wounds to the neck, shoulder, and lower body during the shootout, but was taken to the hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries. He's expected to survive, authorities now say.
During the shootout, the driver of the vehicle -- identified only as a 23-year-old Hispanic male -- was also hit with gunfire. He was taken to a hospital where he remains in critical condition.
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Authorities are looking for a third suspect who was in the SUV at the time of the shooting, but managed to flee on foot. He's described as a 20-25-year-old, clean-shaven Hispanic male, about 5-foot-6 and 160-170 pounds. He was wearing dark clothes and a brown shirt at the time of the shooting, police say.
Phoenix Sergeant Tommy Thompson tells New Times that investigators are in the process of determining what would cause Leon to open fire on officers.
Anyone with information about the third suspect is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department's Violent Crimes Bureau at (602) 262-6141 or Silent Witness at (480) WITNESS, (480) TESTIGO for Spanish.