Jeff Ahlers' Death Ruled Suicide -- Eight Months Later

Frequent New Times readers know that we've spent a good part of the last eight months covering the mysterious death of Jeff Ahlers, a Tempe man whose bullet-riddled body was pulled from a canal last June.

It turns out, the death has now been ruled a suicide, according to the Tempe Police Department, the cop shop we've spent the last eight months hounding to get more information on Ahlers and the piss-poor investigation into his death.

Ahlers was reported missing on June 1, of last year. His body was found a few days later, on June 3, in a canal that runs through Kiwanis Park in Tempe, killed by an apparent gunshot wound.

Tempe police wouldn't say whether a gun was found at the scene, which there was -- it just took them six months to find it (and they weren't even the ones who found it, more on that later).

With no gun initially found at the scene, it seemed to suggest that Ahlers was murdered. In other words, guns don't just get up and walk away. Meanwhile, the TPD suggested the death was a suicide -- even though no gun had been recovered.

With the body of a man police believed killed himself found in a canal, you'd think the TPD, at some point early in the investigation, would say "shucks...maybe a good place to look for the gun would be the bottom of the canal in which we found the body."

You'd be wrong.

Despite several suggestions from New Times (in the form of the question "hey, have you looked in the canal yet?"), it took the Tempe Police Department six months to even bother to search the canal. And they're not even the ones who found the gun.

In early December, after our continuous nagging, the Tempe Police Department drained the section of the canal where Ahlers' body was found.

A few days after the canal was drained, we got a call from a guy who only wanted to be identified as Jerry, and guess what Jerry found on the drained canal bed about 100 yards upstream from where Ahlers' body was found -- a gun. He even took us to the spot where he found it.

Jerry found the gun before the cops because even after the canal was drained, it seems investigators put off looking for it.

Workers at a nearby power generating station told us they weren't allowed to work on an area of the canal -- roughly, a mile-and-a-half stretch from Guadalupe to Baseline Roads -- the week before the gun was found because the TPD "planned" to search the canal bed for evidence. Luckily it was Jerry who beat the cops to the gun as they delayed their search of the canal, and not a child or a criminal. 

Now, eight months later, about two months after the discovery of the gun, it's been determined that Ahlers committed suicide -- information the public, and more importantly Ahlers' family and friends, probably would have known seven months ago if the Tempe Police Department had done its job.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King