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

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

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 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.

David Uribe's son Adam (a Phoenix police detective), his widow, Kerry, and other family members stood together, each lost in their thoughts.

After a prayer from a chaplain and a few heartfelt words from Phoenix police sergeant Tommy Thompson, Adam Uribe reached up to a string attached to a light pole.

He tugged on it to reveal the street sign that forever will hang at the site.

It says, "Police Officer David C. Uribe. End of Watch. May 10, 2005."

Adam Uribe took his 6-week-old son, Anthony, from his wife, Sarah, and looked at him lovingly.

Time stood still for a moment, or maybe more.

The uniformed officers slowly moved from their positions one by one to pay their respects to the Uribe family.

A half-hour after the service began, police reopened Cactus Road to traffic. But several folks lingered on the frontage road to chat before returning to their jobs, their lives.

One of those sticking around was Adam Uribe, a solid guy who spoke to his father every day while both were on duty, each always warning the other to be careful out there.

Still holding his infant son, Detective Uribe said this:

"That little guy would have loved my dad."

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