MCSO Deputy Bill Coleman Murder: Burglary Suspects Arrested

In what Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio insists was "not a news conference," the MCSO announced this afternoon that two men who allegedly burglarized the business where Deputy Bill Coleman was murdered earlier this month have been arrested.

Arpaio, however, says it's unlikely the two men -- Michael Allen Pierce, 33, and Shawn Patrick Brannen, 23 -- had any involvement in Coleman's murder, or with the man who killed him, 30-year-old "UFO-ologist" Drew Ryan Maras.

"There is probably no connection [between the burglary and the murder] -- [it seems to be] a coincidence beyond all coincidences," Arpaio says.

However, he went on to say that "if that burglary did not occur, and the alarm [didn't] go off, our deputy would not have been in that parking lot."

Coleman, 50, was fatally shot when he and other deputies responded to a burglary call at a medical center in Anthem about 4 a.m. on January 8.

When Coleman and the other deputies approached a van in the parking lot of the business, Maras was seen sleeping in the vehicle with his dog (authorities suspect Maras has been living in the van). When Coleman tapped on the window, Maras woke up, opened the van's sliding door, and started shooting at deputies, killing Coleman, a 20-year veteran with the MCSO and father of four children.

During the shootout, Maras managed to fire 29 rounds before he was fatally wounded by one of the 41 bullets fired by the deputies.

A few days after Coleman's murder, authorities linked Maras to the murders of a New Hampshire couple, who were gunned down near Sedona a few days before Coleman was shot.

James Johnson and Carol Raynsford were found shot to death in their car as it was parked in a remote section of Arizona State Route 89-A.

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher says it appears Maras picked the couple at random -- he approached their vehicle and just started shooting.

Pierce and Brannen are suspected of committing multiple burglaries throughout the Valley.

According to court records obtained by New Times, the two stole a unique medical computer called a Fujitsu from the business where Coleman was shot. They're also suspected of burglarizing the Freeman Tax Services building in Anthem, as well as the Wild Horse Hair Salon next door.

Arpaio says the two men could be responsible for at least 10 commercial burglaries throughout the Valley.

For now, Pierce and Brannen were booked on three counts each of burglary and trafficking stolen property.

Arpaio says it's unlikely the two men will be charged with Coleman's murder, even though Coleman's death occurred while Pierce and Brannen were committing a felony. He says, though, that it's up to the County Attorney's Office to decide how to charge the alleged thieves.

Also at this afternoon's (non) press conference was Coleman's wife, Beth, who Arpaio presented with a check for $64,000.

"It never will replace the loss of your husband," the sheriff told her, "but hopefully this will help your family."

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