"Dirty Harry" in Scottsdale? Badass Cop Bags Four Bad Guys in 10-Year Career

Most cops never shoot anyone, and even fewer will kill more than one crime suspect in their careers.

Scottsdale Officer James Peters is different: He's killed five four people in his 10-year career. On Wednesday, he was among several officers who shot and critically wounded another crime suspect.

As a Channel 5 (KPHO-TV) broadcast pointed out last night, Peters has racked up a high body count -- higher than any officer in the state.

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: Channel 5 reported tonight that the first suspect Peters' shot had survived, lowering Peters' total fatal shootings to four. The station corrected its original reporting and de-linked its written version. Based on the new report, we've made a few changes to this post.

Whether four or five dead, six total shootings is a tough-to-explain record.

Channel 5's Thursday report takes an ominous tone, at one point showing a close-up of one of Peters' eyes, inviting viewers to peer into his ethically suspect soul.

But the facts seem to support each of Peters' split-second decisions.

In other words, Peters may be quick on the trigger -- but he's also a hero.

In at least three of the shootings in which he's been involved, Peters wasn't the only one to fire -- other officers made the same choice as him.

That's what happened in his first shooting, a SWAT call-out for a domestic-violence situation. He was among three officers who shot a man who pointed a gun at them from a balcony, according to an East Valley Tribune article.

The same article details a 2003 shooting in which Peters shot and killed a suicidal, disbarred lawyer who'd been pacing the banks of a canal with a shotgun. Peters shot him as he walked toward the officer, ignoring commands to drop his weapon.

In 2005, Peters blew away an ex-con who had been released from prison four days earlier. The guy had been threatening people near the On-Auk-Mor store, 8001 East McKellips, when Scottsdale officer Dave Alvarado drove up.

The crazed man swung an 18-inch section of pipe at Alvarado, who barely dodged the blow. One Web account describes how Alvarado wanted to shoot the man, but was fearful of hitting passing motorists.

When Peters drove up and saw what was happening, he threw his car into park, "bailed out, and started shooting 'all in one move,'" according to the article by Force Science News. The suspect then began running at Peters, who continued firing. The article describes how the supect struggled, claimed he had a gun and threatened to kill officers -- even after being hit by two bullets."

Safeway worker Patrick Corbett was at the mercy of a crazed gunman -- until Peters arrived at the scene


In 2006, like a scene out of a Dirty Harry movie, Peters shot a gun-wielding man who had taken a Safeway worker hostage. Peters won a Medal of Valor for that one.

Channel 5 makes hay with the fact that Scottsdale settled a lawsuit filed by the family of another man shot by Peters (and other officers) in 2006:

The Scottsdale Police Department had to settle with the victim's family out of court after Peters and other officers cut the power to a suspect's home and shot him dead when he came out with a gun to investigate.

But the station leaves out an important detail -- the man fired at least one shot at officers before they took him out.

In the most recent shooting, Peters and another officer wounded James Hammack, accused of robbing five banks. The cops, who had tracked him to 57th Avenue and Osborn in Phoenix, tried to arrest him after he got out of his truck. But when he spotted the officers, he jumped back in the vehicle and drove it directly at officers, police say.

Peters and the other officers have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation, which is routine for any officer-involved shooting.

We hope Peters is soon back on the streets, his firearms loaded and oiled.

Go ahead, make his day.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.