Phoenix Police Have Now Shot 10 People This Year; Eight Died

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams Melissa Fossum
A Phoenix police officer shot a man on Tuesday night, August 27, following reports that someone had been firing shots into the air in near 36th Street and Palm Lane. The man, whose name police have yet to disclose, is the 10th person to be shot this year by Phoenix police.

Phoenix Police Detective Luis Samudio said that around 6:30 p.m., officers responded to a call that someone had fired shots into the air. When police went to the home they believed the shooting came from, a 34-year-old man holding a long rifle opened the door.

A Phoenix police officer shot the man upon seeing him holding the gun, Samudio said, adding that he does not yet know whether the man was pointing the gun at the officer or simply holding it.

"When the individual opened the door, he had his long rifle with him, and that's when the officer had to fire his weapon," Samudio told reporters last night. "I don't know the direction [he was pointing the gun], but obviously there was some kind of threat."

Samudio said the man was taken to a hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, but could not provide more details on the man or the officer who shot him. No officers were injured. Samudio said police believe the man was firing shots into the air in his own backyard.

So far this year, Phoenix police have shot nine other people. Eight were killed. Before last night, the last shooting occurred on May 26, when Phoenix police critically wounded a 24-year-old man they allege pulled a gun on them.

The eight other police shootings so far this year, beginning with the most recent:

1. On May 19, Phoenix police shot and killed 17-year-old Robert Rabago. Police say Rabago fired shots at them. Police pursued Rabago after officers saw the boy and other teenagers throw a beer bottle at a passing vehicle.

2. On May 9, Phoenix police shot and killed 29-year-old Hector Lopez. Lopez's family has protested the lack of transparency surrounding his death outside Phoenix police headquarters. Police were responding to a trespassing call in the early morning hours of May 9 near Seventh Avenue and Buckeye Road. When Lopez opened his car door, a gun fell to the ground. Police say that Lopez lunged for the gun and that he was killed in the ensuing struggle. But his family says Lopez was disabled and question whether he could have done what the police claim he did.

3. On April 29, Phoenix police shot and killed 26-year-old Alejandro Hernandez after his sister called police for help while Hernandez was acting erratically outside their family's home. Police say Hernandez was holding a replica rifle.

4. On March 28, Phoenix police shot and killed Eugene Horn, who police say fled when they pursued him as a possible suspect in a burglary they were investigating.

5. On March 13, Phoenix police shot and killed 30-year-old Henry Wayne Rivera. Phoenix police later admitted they were chasing the wrong person when they killed Rivera, who fled from police. Rivera, who left behind a 4-month-old child, was unarmed when Phoenix police mistook him for another man wanted for murder.

6. On March 9, Phoenix police shot and killed 35-year-old Eric Hagstrom while responding to a domestic violence call. Police said Hagstrom refused to drop his gun after officers located him and he pointed the weapon at an officer.

7. On January 30, Phoenix police shot and killed 47-year-old Michael Joe Jolls after he broke into a woman's home, stole a vehicle, and allegedly pointed a gun at officers.

8. On January 11, Phoenix police shot and killed 19-year-old Jacob Harris as he fled from a vehicle. Police say Harris had a gun and pointed it at officers, but Harris' father and helicopter footage have called that narrative into question. Police have since charged Harris' three friends, one of whom was 14 years old, with felony murder.

Phoenix police have shot significantly fewer people this year than last year, but the department is still ahead of similarly-sized cities like Philadelphia (where six have been shot, and only one was killed) and San Antonio (where six have also been shot and five were killed).

Last year, Phoenix police shot more people than any other police department in the country. Phoenix police shot at people 44 times in 2018. The New York Police Department shot at people 23 times. The NYPD has nearly 40,000 police officers. Phoenix has roughly 3,000 officers.

Last week, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Mayor Kate Gallego said Phoenix police will now be required to document every time they point a gun at someone. The change in policy comes after a National Police Foundation study examining Phoenix police's unusually high number of police shootings came up short on answers.

“This will allow us to have a real idea of how many times our officers are able to successfully de-escalate a situation with the potential of deadly force,” Williams said.

The department has been mired in controversy in recent months following news that 97 current and former officers had shared racist content on Facebook, as well as the release of a viral video of a Phoenix police officer threatening to shoot an unarmed black man in the head in front of his family.

"Police cannot be the judge, jury, and executioners in our community," said Viri Hernandez, director of Poder in Action, a police reform group, at a City Council meeting in May where the council discussed increased funding for the police department. Hernandez is also a member of the ad hoc committee on police reform Gallego established earlier this month. The committee's first meeting is tomorrow.

"We believe in consequences when these things happen, but more than that, we believe in solutions to hold the humanity of every single human being in our community," Hernandez said. "There are ways that we can spend resources to stop these things from happening, instead of continuing to spend more money on surveillance, on policing, on criminalization of our communities."
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.