Third Suspect in "Execution" of Buckeye Officer Located and Released; Second Officer Will Survive, Police Say

The second officer shot during the execution-style murder of a Buckeye police officer over the weekend is expected to recover, the Phoenix Police Department announced today. Additionally, a third suspect in the case was located, questioned, and released, Phoenix Sergeant Tommy Thompson tells New Times.

A second suspect in the case who was also shot during a "life or death gun battle" between the wounded officer and the suspect who murdered Officer Rolando Tirado also is expected to pull through. It's unclear whether he'll be charged with any crimes.

The shooting happened early Sunday morning when Tirado and Officer Christopher Paz, were doing off-duty security work for a dance at the El Gran Mercado at 1800 South 35th Avenue when they spotted a Chevy Tahoe driving erratically in the parking lot.

Once the Tahoe was pulled over, Tirado approached the driver's side. As he was doing so, 23-year-old Cesar Tomas Quiroz Leon -- who Phoenix police tell New Times has an "extensive" criminal past in California -- got out of the passenger seat, walked around the back of the SUV, and fatally shot Tirado without warning.

After shooting, Tirado, Leon, and Paz engaged in what Phoenix police describe as a "life or death gun battle," during which Leon was fatally shot.

Paz suffered several gunshot wounds to the neck, shoulder, and lower body during the shootout, but was taken to the hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries. He's expected to survive, authorities now say.

During the shootout, the driver of the vehicle -- identified only as a 23-year-old Hispanic male --  was also hit with gunfire. He was taken to a hospital where he is also expected to survive.

The third suspect, described only as a 20-25-year-old, clean-shaven Hispanic male, ran from the scene of the shootout. He was located, questioned, and released.

Thompson tells New Times that investigators are in the process of determining what would cause Leon to open fire on officers. 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King

Latest Stories