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
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.”