Phoenix police shoot, run over man in case of mistaken identity | Phoenix New Times
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Phoenix police shoot, run over man in case of mistaken identity

"We're running him over. Hold on,” an officer said seconds after another one shot David Epaloose.
Phoenix police shot David Epaloose on Jan. 12 during a pursuit in which officers also used pepper balls and foam projectiles.
Phoenix police shot David Epaloose on Jan. 12 during a pursuit in which officers also used pepper balls and foam projectiles. Phoenix Police Department
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Phoenix police shot and then ran over a 38-year-old man they thought was banging on an apartment door with a knife. They said later that David Epaloose wasn't the man they were after.

Epaloose suffered serious injuries in the Jan. 12 incident after leading officers on a foot chase and allegedly brandishing a pellet gun several times, police said. Officers arrested him, and he faces eight charges, including four counts of aggravated assault, two counts of attempting to commit aggravated assault and two drug charges.

Phoenix police released video footage of the incident on Jan. 26. The footage is 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.

A 911 caller reported that a man was banging on an apartment door with a knife near 14th Street and McDowell Road. In the briefing — and a Jan. 13 press release about the incident — police said the man was kicking the door while holding a knife. The caller said the man recently was involved in a domestic violence incident with someone inside.

When officers arrived in the area, they spotted a man they suspected was the person from the apartment incident, Sgt. Brian Bowers, a department spokesperson, said in the briefing video.

"Put your fucking hands up in the air, and you won’t get hurt," an officer said in body camera footage.

Epaloose responded, “I ain’t do nothing.” An officer repeated commands for Epaloose to put his hands in the air. Epaloose turned and started walking away.

Police fired pepper balls and foam projectiles at Epaloose during their pursuit, according to the briefing. Video surveillance footage from a store showed that Epaloose pointed a gun at officers. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun that police said was “made to look like a semiautomatic handgun.”

During the pursuit, another officer arrived, ran toward Epaloose with a shotgun and shot him one time. The shot is audible in body camera footage from two other officers as they arrive in another patrol vehicle. One of the officers said, "We're running him over. Hold on."

A few seconds later, the driver of the police cruiser — a Chevrolet Tahoe — accelerated and struck Epaloose before crashing into a fence.

In a Jan. 13 statement about the officer-involved shooting, the agency claimed Epaloose was shot and struck at the same time.

"Simultaneously, an officer and his passenger officer drove a marked patrol Tahoe at the man, striking him and ending the threat," police said in the press release.

Video in the briefing released two weeks later contradicted that claim.

Bower said Epaloose was taken to the hospital and treated for serious injuries.

“During the investigation, detectives learned that the man involved in this critical incident was not the same person in the original 911 emergency call,” Bower said in the video.

Police later charged Epaloose with eight offenses. On Jan. 31, Epaloose was indicted by a grand jury for those eight charges.

Bowers declined to directly respond to questions from Phoenix New Times about why officers suspected Epaloose was the man involved at the apartment incident.

“Prior to lethal force being used, the man pointed a handgun at officers, and several less-lethal engagements took place to stop the man's behavior leading to the officer-involved shooting,” Bowers said.

Police later arrested Juan Soto-Boon, 25, and charged him with attempted burglary in the Jan. 12 incident at the apartment. But the Maricopa County Attorney's Office refused to prosecute the case since there wasn't a reasonable likelihood of a conviction, according to Jeanine L'Ecuyer, a spokesperson for the county attorney's office. A misdemeanor charge of criminal damage against Soto-Boon was referred to city prosecutors, L'Ecuyer said.

The county attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the shooting, and police are conducting an internal investigation to determine if officers followed department policy.

Phoenix police fatal encounters in 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating Phoenix police for 30 months regarding patterns in use of force by officers, discriminatory policing and treatment of unsheltered and disabled people. Chief Michael Sullivan was brought in to lead the department in September 2022 as it dealt with the probe.

Currently, the city of Phoenix is pushing back publicly against any independent oversight sought by the U.S. Justice Department.

In 2023, Phoenix police officers shot and killed 12 people, an increase from 2022. In January, police shot and killed three people.
  • 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: John Michael Lewis Jr., 43, died after a shootout with officers in what started as a welfare check. Officers spoke to Lewis through a rear door to his house before Lewis produced a handgun, according to police. Four shots were fired, and Lewis was pronounced dead at his house. New Times requested a medical examiner's report.

  • Jan. 27: Officers shot and killed Guy Vogel Jr., 42, after responding to a call that a store was robbed and guns were taken. Police found Vogel and a woman, who they believed were the suspects. They gave verbal commands and fired a nonlethal launcher at Vogel, who fled, then produced a handgun. Police responded by firing at and hitting him. Vogel was taken to a hospital, where he died from injuries. A briefing of the incident is expected from police on Feb. 10.
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