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Boy on life support after being shot in head, Phoenix police say

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Corrections & clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the condition of the shooting victim. 

A 9-year-old boy who was shot in the head at his home Monday afternoon is on life support.

The boy was found shot at a residence in the 3500 block of Rosewood Avenue, which is just north of Cactus Road, said Phoenix police Sgt. Vince Lewis. Officials received a call about 3 p.m. from the home.

Lewis said three other children also were in the house at the time of the shooting, as well as the boy’s mother.

The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation, including who pulled the trigger, Lewis said. The investigation has not ruled out the possibility the shooting was accidental, he said.

THE LATEST: Police arrest parents of 9-year-old boy shot by toddler

A gun was found inside the home, he added. The boy’s father, who was not home at the time, was detained by police for questioning about the weapon after he returned to the house, Lewis said in a prepared statement late Monday

Lewis earlier had stressed that while the shooting is under investigation, the tragedy can serve as a reminder about the importance of keeping guns secure inside one’s home.

“In a broader sense, when it comes to gun safety, gun storage, education is very important. Security and safety is very important,” he said. “Gun owners should typically understand the dangers inherent in the weapons and take good care to secure them properly.’’

, The Republic | azcentral.com

Homeless veteran rescues distressed swimmer from Phoenix canal

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A man who identified himself as a homeless veteran jumped into a canal to rescue a swimmer in distress Friday morning in Phoenix.

“I don’t think any of us really thought about the dangers of helping him,” said Richard McNeil, 41. “Where I came from, you just helped people — doesn’t make a difference if I’m homeless or not, I still help people when I can.”

McNeil said as he waited for a bus on 16th Street near Indian School Road at about 8 a.m. he heard splashing and a man crying for help.

McNeil said he and several others rushed to help the man, who was said to be in his 50s. They had pulled him from the Grand Canal before fire crews arrived.

“The man is in stable condition,” said Capt. Ardell Deliz, a Phoenix Fire Department spokeswoman. “He is at the hospital for further evaluation.”

Deliz wanted to remind people “to be careful around canals, and to not enter the canals to swim.”

McNeil said he didn’t want any praise or assistance; he is happy living on the streets. He just hoped the man he helped would “pay it forward.”

, The Republic | azcentral.com

Phoenix police: Driver who died after high-speed chase was suspect in Ahwatukee Foothills murder

Shots were fired after a high-speed police chase that ended in north Phoenix when an undercover officer crashed into a yellow Corvette they were pursuing. The driver was a suspect in an Ahwatukee Foothills murder, police said. Nick Oza/azcentral.com

 

A man sought in connection with an Ahwatukee Foothills murder led Phoenix police on a chase Wednesday afternoon that ended when an undercover officer intentionally crashed his vehicle into the Corvette officers were pursuing and the suspect ended up dead at the scene.

Local television footage showed several officers emerge from unmarked vehicles with guns drawn after the yellow Corvette crashed near Dove Valley Road and North Valley Parkway. Two of the officers fired at the suspect, said Sgt. Alan Pfohl, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Pfohl, however, could not confirm whether it was the officers’ gunfire or a self-inflicted gunshot that killed the man, saying the cause remained under investigation. He said a gun was found inside the car.

“We still still have to investigate the manner of death. We don’t know if an officer (fatally) shot him. We don’t know if it was self-inflicted,” Pfohl said.

A distraught woman who was at the scene spoke briefly to The Arizona Republic and identified herself as the dead man’s sister, but declined to provide her name. His body still was at the scene late Wednesday afternoon, under a blanket just outside of the Corvette.

“Why is his body still there?” she asked a Republic reporter. The woman added: “I was watching on TV … it’s a long story.” She then left to speak with police.

The location was one of several across parts of the Valley that police say are related to a crime spree they believe the driver of the Corvette carried out.

The man, who was not identified, was a suspect in the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man in Ahwatukee Foothills earlier in the day, Pfohl said.

Man suffered gunshot wound

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Phoenix police received a call of a shooting about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday at an apartment complex near 48th Street and Elliot Road, where officers found a man suffering from at least one gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“During detectives’ investigation, it led them to this person, which matched the description of a possible suspect in the shooting,” Pfohl said.

Phoenix police located the man near 65th Avenue and Bell Road in Glendale, and as they attempted to contact him, he ran off, Pfohl said.

Police heard gunshots a short time later and learned that a person had their truck stolen at gunpoint not far from that location, Pfohl said, adding that Glendale police are investigating that incident.

Pfohl said the man drove into Phoenix and later abandoned the truck near Seventh Avenue and Union Hills Drive and from there confronted another person at gunpoint and stole the Corvette that was involved in the chase.

A police helicopter was able to find the car and followed the man into north Phoenix along with several unmarked police vehicles. Pfohl said one of those officers deliberately crashed into the car after it began driving into oncoming traffic.

Pfohl said he didn’t know whether the man threatened officers before police fired on him, but said there were no reports that the man fired shots at police during the chase. He said police never were in communication with the suspect.

He said the two officers who fired their weapons are members of the department’s Special Assignment Unit. One is a 50-year-old with 29 years of service with Phoenix police. The other is a 49-year-old officer with more than eight years with the department.

Pfohl was unable to provide additional information about how the suspect may have been connected to the Ahwatukee homicide victim or any other details about the killing.

One person who witnessed some of the chase was stunned by what he saw.

Glendale resident Derek Montilla said he witnessed the chase as he was driving northbound on 19th Avenue and saw the driver pass his vehicle in the oncoming traffic lane. The driver, Montilla said, was “a blur” and was “driving extremely dangerously.”

Montilla said at first he believed the vehicle was just a “guy in a Corvette being a jerk,” but once he saw the “army of unmarked cop cars” in pursuit, he said “it was pretty apparent it was something bigger.”

Shortly after, Montilla learned from his wife that he had just witnessed a high-speed car chase. His wife was watching the events unfold on live television. At that point, Montilla said, he “just wanted to see it end.”

“You could tell this guy was driving like he had nothing to lose,” he said. “He took off so fast into oncoming traffic that I just knew it wasn’t going to end well.”

, The Republic | azcentral.com

Defendant in 3 murders in 2012 to get competency evaluation

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Michael Crane has pleaded not guilty to three murders he is charged with committing in late January 2012, but during one of his many outbursts in court on Friday, he declared the opposite.

“I take the blame for all these crimes and would like to go home,” Crane said, pointing his finger skyward.

Crane, 36, is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2012 deaths of Glenna and Lawrence Shapiro of Paradise Valley and Bruce Gaudet of Phoenix. The deaths were part of two separate home invasions that Crane is accused of being involved in. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

His admission in Maricopa County Superior Court during a routine hearing gave Judge Warren Granville pause. The judge told Crane that his sudden change of heart was alarming and, combined with his unpredictable behavior in court, again brought into question Crane’s mental competency.

Granville explained to Crane that he wanted to approve the Rule 11 motion filed by his defense attorney and the state to determine if his “intent to change his plea was voluntarily or if his mental stability was playing a part.” A Rule 11 in Arizona is defined such that a person who may have a mental illness, defect or disability cannot stand trial, be convicted, sentenced or punished for any public offense.

“Fine, fine,” Crane said, “get ‘er done.” Before the judge could finish, Crane hollered out “We done?” becoming visibly more agitated.

“Irregardless to whenever the change of plea is submitted in this case, it is the state’s intention to take this case before a jury,” Deputy County Attorney Patricia Stevens said, adding that because this is a capital-murder case, they would not be offering a plea deal to Crane.

As Crane was being escorted out of court by sheriff’s deputies, he turned to his family members in the gallery and said he loved them. He then swung all the way around to look at Stevens and, after calling her names, said, “Rule 11 is ridiculous and unnecessary.”

Crane spat expletives at Granville, as well, as he exited the courtroom.

Disruptions and profanity-laced tirades are par for the course when Crane appears in court. Such behavior prompted officials to look into his mental stability in early April 2015. He is expected to be back in court May 19 after his defense team and the state have had time to review the court-ordered mental-health assessment.

Crane pleaded guilty last month to two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of armed robbery and burglary in a separate case. His sentencing is set for April.

, The Republic | azcentral.com

 

Suspected gunman in fatal Best Buy shooting has died

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The suspected gunman in the fatal shooting at a Best Buy store in Avondale on Monday has died, police reported Wednesday.

Avondale police believe Henry Cota Jr., 27, shot and killed Melissa Mendez, 26, following a history of escalating domestic violence.

Mendez was pronounced dead hours after being shot at the Best Buy store where she worked. Cota, who also had gunshot wounds, died at a hospital Tuesday evening, according to Officer Jaret Redfearn, an Avondale police spokesman.

Police have still not said whether Cota’s injuries were self-inflicted. Redfearn said a gun was recovered at the scene.

The shooting that sent customers running for cover took place just after noon at the store near 99th Avenue and McDowell Road, Redfearn said.

Monday’s shooting began with an initial confrontation outside the store, police said. Cota fired several shots at Mendez, who ran inside the store, officials added. Cota followed her inside and fired more shots in the store.

No further details were provided by police, who said the matter still was being investigated Wednesday.

Police had the area around the store blocked off for hours after the shooting.

Several people who were in the store described a terrifying scene when the shooting broke out.

Fernando Perez, 20, told The Arizona Republic that he and his friend were in the Best Buy shopping for supplies for some speakers when they heard what sounded like a chase and saw a man wearing all black running after a woman.

“After that, we just heard the gunfire,” Perez said. “Then we just ran out of the back door and went all the way to (Raising) Cane’s.”

Melinda Brasher told The Republic she was in Best Buy looking to buy computer supplies when the shooting occurred.

“I heard shots and people running and shouting,”  Brasher said. “So I ran toward the back.”

Another woman was in back trying to open an emergency exit, but was unable to, Brasher said.

“We went and hid in the restroom,” she said, adding the two initially leaned against the door but were afraid the  shooter might fire through the door. “We got up on the toilet seats so it looked like we weren’t there.”

Brasher said they were in there for what felt like forever and kept hearing shots but no words. Then police came into the restroom and the two came out of the stall with their hands up, she said.

Marlene Brasher, Melinda’s mother, said she was next door at Hobby Lobby and phoned her daughter several times to try to figure out if her daughter was OK.

“I’ve never been so happy in my life,” said Marlene, describing her reaction when she saw her daughter afterward.

Trudy Frias and her family pulled up to the scene shortly after, unaware of what happened. Frias said that when they parked, they could only see police cars.

Her husband, Larry, jumped up on the trailer their truck was pulling while she used his binoculars to try to see what was going on.

“I saw them wheeling a guy out of the Best Buy,” Frias said. “They had an air mask on him.”

Frias then said she saw a second person who was also on a stretcher being wheeled out to awaiting ambulances.

, The Republic | azcentral.com

Government bills Arizona veteran for $14,000

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) –Ashely Christopher had just started college, was volunteering at a horse ranch and an elementary school but had a calling to do even more.

So she joined the Arizona Army National Guard.

“I thought the ultimate volunteering would be to join the military,” said Christopher.

She joined a military police unit and became a weekend warrior, always knowing that active duty deployment could be on the horizon.

“I was well-aware joining the military, even in the weekend capacity, that they were needing soldiers. So, given orders, I said cool,” said Christopher.

She was deployed on two occasions. Once to Iraq, the second time to Afghanistan.

“I was proud to do it. I knew that it was a possibility, so, I had no hesitation to go,” said Christopher.

She fulfilled her first three-year initial National Guard commitment and then reenlisted for another six.

In February 2015, Christopher was honorably discharged. She used the VA housing loan to buy a home in Phoenix and she finished her college degree at ASU in social work.

Currently, Christopher is a full-time ASU graduate student in social work, and she works full-time with homeless veterans at the homeless shelter in downtown Phoenix.

“I love my job, I really do. A lot of people complain about their job and I enjoy my job. And even if I didn’t work with homeless veterans I would still serve the community in some capacity. That’s my calling as cheesy as it sounds,” said Christopher.

In August of 2016, 18 months after she left the military, Christopher received a bill in the mail from the Department of Treasury for more than $14,000.

She inquired immediately.

“They said that I didn’t fulfill my end of the contract in the military and so I was being charged for a prorated portion of my enlistment bonus that I got when I reenlisted into the National Guard for six more years,” said Christopher.

That reenlistment came with a $15,000 signing bonus, tax-free for six years.

About a year and a half after that reenlistment, Christopher said she got a call from a readiness non-commission officer who said that because of her military test scores and her security clearance, she was needed for a deployment to Afghanistan. A deployment, she was told, was 125 soldiers short. So, like a good soldier, Christopher complied.

“I’m a soldier. I go where I’m needed,” she said.

But she was hesitant, not because of the deployment, but because it meant being transferred to a unit out of Las Vegas and being retrained. Christopher said she specifically inquired if her transfer would affect her bonus.

“I thought about it and I questioned it. And I was informed by the retention NCOs and all the NCOs that this is for combat purposes, national security. This is a deployment. It’s the needs of the Army. So the bonus at that point is irrelevant, you know, there’s a war to fight,” said Christopher.

She said she was not the only soldier for that deployment that was asked to transfer units and not the only one to inquire about the bonuses. She said she asked repeatedly and repeatedly was told that the needs of the Army dictated the transfer and that she was all good.

So, when she got the bill, Christopher was stunned.

“I just feel like I’ve done everything that you’re supposed to do when you transition back to civilian life. And I was on a really good track and this has just come out of nowhere and just disrupted that,” said Christopher.

The Department of Treasury informed Christopher that they would garnish up to 15 percent of her wages each paycheck and take her taxes until her debt was paid off.

“The payment plan option was to pay $396 a month for 36 months, I believe. And they wouldn’t take a lesser amount. I called them and said can I send you a hundred bucks? And they weren’t flexible with that. Even after I told them that I was a student. They weren’t too concerned with that,” said Christopher.

Christopher said her credit score went from 742 to 605 in two weeks. Her house is on the market and she’s packing to move out to get the cash to pay the debt. At the same time, she has filed papers to dispute the debt and has contacted three of Arizona’s congressional leaders as well as the Office of the Inspector General. So far, everyone has only been able to confirm that her debt is valid, at the same time acknowledging it may not be fair.

She is concerned about other soldiers who may be in the same position.

“I don’t have high expectations from the government. But I would like there to be some clear definitions or greater acknowledgment with handling of money in the future. So that if the debt is valid, they say, ‘Hey, we need you to do this mission but it’s going to cost you this amount of money. Do you still want to go?’ Selfless service with a price tag,” said Christopher.

Just recently Christopher received a letter from the Department of Treasury after filing her federal income taxes and knowing she was owed a refund.

The letter stated:

“As authorized by federal law we applied all or part of your federal payment to a debt you owe.”

Christopher would never see a penny of the $800 plus Christopher was to receive.

“I knew that I had a refund coming a little bit and then I also knew that there was a chance they could take a percentage of it. I didn’t think they would take 100 percent but they did,” said Christopher.

A public relations spokesman with the Arizona National Guard said they are not the ones who initiated the action against Christopher.

Attempts to reach someone in the Nevada Nation Guard have gone unanswered.

U.S. Representative Ruben Gallegos’ office did put Christopher in touch with the Office of the Inspector General.

Christopher said they have been helpful and responsive so far. But the debt remains and she expects her wages to be garnished any time.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

Posted: Feb 21, 2017 9:49 AM TST

Updated: Feb 21, 2017 12:07 PM TST

Funnel cloud forms in Scottsdale

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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Arizona is not used to this weather.

People in Scottsdale were surprised when they saw a cold air funnel cloud near Talking Stick Resort on Sunday afternoon.

A cold air funnel is a high based, weak circulation that occurs in a cool air mass. It develops well above the earth’s surface. Since it is high based and weak, they rarely impact the earth’s surface, although they can look threatening.

Unlike typical tornadoes, cold air funnels develop in a shallow cool air mass and often behind a cold frontal passage.

The cloud is part of a storm system that brought rain to the Valley and snow to the high country.

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[READ MORE: Storm fills up Valley rain gauges; snow blankets Flagstaff]

Posted: Feb 20, 2017 8:32 AM TST Updated: Feb 20, 2017 9:51 PM TST