Tempe Police Fatally Shoot Drunk, Knife-Wielding Man to Cap Year of Officer-Involved Shootings Dominating National Discourse

A Tempe police officer fatally shot a knife-wielding man late Sunday night after two officers responded to a domestic-violence call on West Freemont Street.

The shooting death comes at the end of a year in which officer-involved shootings dominated national discourse. 

According to Lieutenant Mike Pooley of the Tempe PD, a woman called the police at 9:46 p.m. and requested “police assistance in getting her boyfriend who lives with her off her property.”

The man, who died from his wounds after he was taken to the hospital, has been identified as 34-year-old Sean Mould. The female’s name has not been released.

Mould had  "a history of alcoholism, and he had been drinking pretty heavily that day,” Pooley tells New Times. “They got into an argument and she wanted him to leave, but he wouldn’t.”

Pooley adds that as far as he knows, she stated that they “were in a verbal altercation but never said he was threatening her.”

Upon arriving at the house, one of the officers “attempted to make contact with the suspect who was in the garage” and holding some sort of folding pocket-knife, Pooley says.

“As the officer made contact, [Mould] began walking towards the officer. The officer attempted to back away from the suspect, giving him multiple commands to drop the knife. The suspect ignored commands and continued to walk towards the officer at which time the officer shot the suspect.,” the Tempe PD stated.

Mould was shot once in the torso area, Pooley says, and was “transported to the hospital in critical condition” where he later died from his injuries.

While little is known at this time about Mould, Pooley says he was a familiar face to the Tempe PD.

“I know we’ve had contact with him before, but it’s all been alcohol related, not major crimes,” he says. “We’ve never been out there for any domestic violence.”

Of considerable frustration to academics and activists is the lack of the real-time data about officer-involved shootings, and the way the incidents are reported and tracked.

Recently, a group of Harvard University researchers published an article in the medical journal PLOS calling for “Law-enforcement–related deaths, of both persons killed by law enforcement agents and also law enforcement agents killed in the line of duty,” to be tracked and publicly reported so that researchers can study “the endemic problem of police violence and police deaths.”

Officer-involved shootings “are a public health concern, not solely a criminal justice concern, since these events involve mortality and affect the well-being of the families and communities of the deceased,” the researchers write.

“Although deaths of police officers are well documented, no reliable official U.S. data exist on the number of persons killed by the police, in part because of long-standing and well-documented resistance of police departments to making these data public.”

But these deaths, they insist, are countable: “We propose that law-enforcement–related deaths be treated as a notifiable condition, which would allow public health departments to report these data in real-time, at the local as well as national level, thereby providing data needed to understand and prevent the problem.”

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser