Longform

The Case of the Grim Tweaker

Dave Uribe reports for duty at 6 a.m. on May 10, a Tuesday.

Uribe had been a Phoenix police officer for 22 of his 48 years. He still loved being a street cop in the sprawling Cactus Park precinct, in the west and northwest parts of the city.

Every day's an adventure, he'd often tell his 92 Bravo squad colleagues in his raspy voice, trademark toothpick in his mouth.

Because of his quiet reliability and goofy sense of humor, Uribe always had been popular with his peers. Somehow, he'd missed becoming jaded by the unsavory parts of the job -- the assholes out on the street who made it hard on everyone, and the peacocks inside the department who continually puffed themselves up.

Like many cops with large families, Uribe worked crazy hours in off-duty jobs, usually security. He did it so his family could live in a big house and have money for special things like the boat they'd take to Lake Pleasant on occasion.

Uribe's son, Adam, was starting his own shift as a police officer in the adjacent Maryvale precinct. Father and son were extremely tight. They always reminded each other to be careful out there, and ended their chats with words of mutual admiration.

Just before 10 a.m., Dave Uribe responds to a call about a suicide at an apartment complex near West Cactus Road.

He leaves that scene about 10:30, and phones Kerry, his wife of 10 years, at their home in northwest Glendale.

Theirs was a blended family. He had three grown children from a previous marriage, and was a grandfather to five. She had two children from her first marriage. The couple also had two children together, Christopher and Catherine, 10 and 7.

The couple met while Kerry was working as a police dispatcher in Phoenix. One day, they'd started chatting over the police computer. The department frowns upon such personal communication, but the repartee was too much fun. Kerry had known she loved Dave before they even met in person at a T.G.I. Friday's on the Fourth of July in 1994.

Now working for the Glendale Police Department, Kerry got to work at 8 a.m. on May 10. But she has a bad stomach, so she soon returns home.

When Dave Uribe speaks with his wife after leaving the suicide scene, he asks if she wants him to fetch her some ginger ale for her sick tummy. She says no, she'd be fine.

"Love you," Kerry tells him. "See you later."

About noon, she hears a knock at her front door.

It is her husband's partner, Officer Chuck Tice.

"I knew it was bad before Chuck ever said a word," Kerry Uribe says. "Then he told me, 'Dave got shot, and we have to go right now.' I just shut down right then and there."


At 11:10 that morning, Dave Uribe runs a license plate check on a Chevy Monte Carlo ahead of him. Twenty-three seconds later, his police computer tells him that the plate was reported stolen from a Scottsdale car dealership.

Uribe informs Phoenix police dispatcher Michelle Williamson that he is about to stop the car on West Cactus Road.

Forty seconds later, he notes over his police radio that the Monte Carlo is "occupied by two white males."

Williamson asks Uribe exactly where he is.

She gets no response, waits 17 seconds, and asks him again. Again no answer. Eleven more seconds elapse.

"Nine two three Bravo," Williamson says, her voice betraying a touch of desperation.

Several people call 911 within seconds of each other at 11:12 a.m.

"Officer down!" one man says. "Officer down on 35th Avenue and Cactus! He got shot! He got shot like three or four times. He's lying on the street. I'm walking up to him. It looks like a head shot. There's blood. He got shot in the head! He does not look alive!"

Other callers describe how the Monte Carlo sped away after the officer fell, and turned right, or south, onto 31st Avenue.

John Leslie is delivering mail on the access road parallel to the south side of Cactus when he hears shots. Then, the Monte Carlo veers around him as it flees.

Leslie jumps out of his U.S. Postal truck, and is the first to reach Officer Uribe, who is unconscious on his back, bleeding profusely from the head. Leslie tries to clear the officer's airway, as another citizen, Bruce Fischer, runs over to help.

"He's on the ground, he's bleeding a lot," Fischer tells a 911 operator as he rushes to Uribe's side. "I've got a first-aid kit with me. I work at Thunderbird Hospital [as a nursing assistant], and I'm gonna go see if I can help."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin