Phoenix cop fires 29 times, kills man police say shot first | Phoenix New Times

Phoenix cop fires 29 times, kills man in rolling shootout

A Phoenix police officer shot and killed Christopher Taveras on May 7. City cops have killed six other men this year.
Phoenix police officer Segio Aguirre-Sanchez shot and killed Christopher Raymond Taveras on May 7 after Taveras allegedly fired at the officer first.
Phoenix police officer Segio Aguirre-Sanchez shot and killed Christopher Raymond Taveras on May 7 after Taveras allegedly fired at the officer first. Phoenix Police Department
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A Phoenix police officer discharged 29 shots and killed a man who allegedly fired on the officer’s patrol vehicle earlier this month, according to footage recently released by the Phoenix Police Department.

Police said 27-year-old Christopher Raymond Tavares was killed on May 7 by officer Sergio Aguirre-Sanchez, according to an advisory released two days later.

On May 21, police released video footage of the shooting as part of the agency's “critical incident briefing," which is made public after any police shooting or in-custody death. The briefings are narrated by officers and include edited compilations of body camera footage, dispatch audio and other information regarding an incident.

According to the police briefing, Aguirre-Sanchez was flagged down at 11:45 p.m. near 35th Avenue and Roosevelt Street by a convenience store employee who said a group of people had been shoplifting in the store. The employee told the officer that two of the shoplifting suspects were sitting at a nearby bus stop. When the officer approached the two suspects in his vehicle, they fled.

Still in his vehicle, Aguirre-Sanchez caught up to the suspect identified as Tavares, who then took out a handgun, according to police. Video from a nearby surveillance camera, included in the briefing, showed the man squared up to the patrol vehicle — though the footage is too pixelated to tell if the man held a weapon — after which the patrol car sped away.

In the dispatch audio released in the briefing, Aguirre-Sanchez said he was “getting shot at.” Police said Tavares fired multiple shots and struck the police vehicle several times. The video shared by police included several photographs of the vehicle purporting to show bullet strikes from the incident.

‘Put the gun down’

Aguirre-Sanchez then turned his vehicle around and returned to confront Tavares. Body camera footage showed that before exiting the car, the officer fired 22 shots through his open driver-side window. Aguirre-Sanchez then reloaded his pistol, exited the vehicle and fired another shot. In the video, he is seen moving closer and yelling, “Put the gun down!” Tavares was not visible in the video, but a muffled voice can be heard calling out as the officer approached.

Aguirre-Sanchez then fired his gun six more times.

Police said at least one of the 29 bullets the officer fired hit Tavares but did not specify exactly how many. Taveras fell to the ground, and police said officers provided medical aid to Tavares. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The gun allegedly used by Tavares was recovered at the scene, but the other suspect was last seen running from the area. In the briefing and in the initial advisory, police said the second suspect was not considered to be involved in the shooting but remains at large.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office opened a criminal investigation into the shooting, and police are conducting an internal investigation to determine if officers followed department policy.

Aguirre-Sanchez, with the police department for roughly six years, was based at the South Mountain Precinct. A Phoenix police spokesperson said Aguirre-Sanchez "remains on administrative leave but is expected to transition to a nonenforcement spot soon."

click to enlarge Police body camera footage
Phoenix police officer Sergio Aguirre-Sanchez shined a flashlight on Christopher Taveras after shooting him on May 7. Police said Taveras fired at Aguirre-Sanchez while fleeing on foot.
Phoenix Police Department

Phoenix police fatal encounters in 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating Phoenix police for more than 33 months over its use of force by officers, discriminatory policing and treatment of unsheltered and disabled people. Phoenix police Chief Michael Sullivan was brought in to lead the department in September 2022 as it dealt with the probe.

The city of Phoenix has publicly pushed back against any independent oversight sought by the U.S. Justice Department. But the recent resignation of the head of Phoenix's Office of Accountability and Transparency and the creation of a watered-down civilian review board call into question the city's ability to regulate its own police department.

In 2023, Phoenix police officers shot and killed 12 people, an increase from 10 fatal shootings in 2022. Police have shot and killed seven people so far in 2024:

  • Jan. 5: Officers shot and killed Junior Reyes, 30, after Reyes fired at officers, injuring one. Police said they were attempting to arrest Reyes, who was wanted on a felony warrant.

  • Jan. 11: Officers shot and killed John Michael Lewis Jr., 43, in what started as a welfare check. Police said they tried to contact people through the back door of Lewis' house when Lewis appeared and produced a handgun. Police shot Lewis, and he was pronounced dead at his house.

  • Jan. 27: Officers shot and killed Guy Vogel Jr., 42, after responding to a call that a store had been robbed and guns were taken. Police found Vogel and a woman, who they believed were the suspects. The officers gave verbal commands and fired a nonlethal launcher at Vogel, who fled and then produced a handgun. Police responded by firing at and hitting Vogel. Vogel was taken to a hospital, where he died from injuries.

  • Feb. 13: An officer shot and killed Miguel Godines, 37. The incident began after officers spotted a car driving at high speed out of a parking lot. Following a chase and apparent attempts by Godines to steal other cars, police said Godines pointed a gun at one of them. An officer then shot Godines, who was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

  • May 7: An officer shot and killed Christopher Tavares, 27, after firing 29 shots at him, according to body camera footage. Police said Tavares shot at and struck the officer’s vehicle as the officer was pursuing him on suspicion of shoplifting. He was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead.

  • May 16: Police shot and killed Devin Montgomery, 23, outside his apartment while officers were attempting to arrest him for his alleged role in a fatal shooting earlier in the day. According to a police advisory, Montgomery fired at police and struck their vehicle before officers fired back and hit him. Montgomery was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Limited footage from the incident is expected to be released on May 30.

  • May 28: An officer shot and killed Sergio Frances Alvarez, 48, on a bike around 3 a.m. at 10th Street and Southern Avenue after the man allegedly fired on another officer. The man was taken to a hospital but died from his injuries. The officer shot was also hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Few details have been released.
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