Phoenix Thief Armed Himself With Homeowner's Gun Before Getting Shot, Police Say


Don't you love it when the community comes together like this?

An indignant citizen spotted a thief trying to jack a carwash machine on Wednesday, police say, then followed the suspect in his vehicle while calling 911.

After Rudolph Gomes, 26, botched his getaway by driving into a stop sign and breaking an axle on his black Jeep Cherokee, he ended up getting blown away by a local homeowner.

Local court records don't seem to indicate that the dead Gomes was a hardened criminal. He was a scofflaw who served two months in county lockup late last year for a probation violation -- the original charge was for possession of pot paraphernalia.

A few days after his release from jail on October 19, Phoenix police busted him for driving a car without a license or registration. The court issued a warrant for Gomes in December when he failed to show up to court.

On Wednesday, the unnamed witness spotted him trying to break into the coin box near Tatum Boulevard and East Charleston Avenue about 1 p.m. After he was chased by the citizen, he ditched his damaged Jeep and fled on foot into a neighborhood near Foothills Elementary School at 44th Street and Grovers Avenue.

He picked a home at random to invade -- it turned out to be a helluva poor choice.

Gomes entered through an unlocked back door and made his way to the garage, says Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thompson. There, Gomes cracked the steering column on a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup but was unable to start the vehicle. He did, however, find a handgun in the glovebox.

Gomes stormed back into the house and confronted the homeowner at gunpoint, demanding the man's wallet and keys to the Avalanche, Thompson says.

The homeowner apparently complied. But when Gomes went back out to the garage, he found that he couldn't start the truck. Either the homeowner had given him the wrong keys, or Gomes had damaged the steering column too much, Thompson says.

Rather then leave well enough alone, Gomes ran back inside the house, says Thompson. By now, though, the unidentified homeowner had armed himself with a shotgun: He blasted Gomes, who later died at a local hospital.

A police investigation is ongoing, but no charges are expected for the homeowner.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern