Old 01-12-2017, 12:47 PM
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semperfifishing
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PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) -
Two people are dead and a Department of Public Safety trooper who was wounded while responding to a shots fired call along Interstate 10 near Tonopah just might owe his life to an armed passer-by who stopped at exactly the right time.

It started shortly before 4:30 a.m. Thursday with a 911 call from a driver east of California who said somebody shot at his car from the median of I-10. According to Col. Frank Milstead, the directors of DPS, that's the call to which the trooper was responding when he came upon a single-vehicle rollover wreck at milepost 89 near Tonopah. A woman had been ejected from that vehicle.

The trooper immediately stopped and began laying out flares.

DPS Capt. Damon Cecil said the trooper, a 27-year-veteran of the agency, was ambushed by the suspect when he got out of his vehicle at the scene of the rollover. That's when the trooper was shot and wounded.

"A physical fight between our trooper and that suspect then ensued, at which time the suspect was shot and killed," Cecil said. "Right now that's all we have. This is a fluid investigation."

Speaking from the hospital to which his trooper was taken, Milstead offered more detail about the fight and what happened next.
"The suspect is getting the better of the trooper and is on top of him and striking the trooper's head on the pavement," he explained.
At that point, an "uninvolved third party" who was driving with his wife to California saw the trooper grappling with the suspect and stopped to help.
"The trooper says, 'Please help me,' and asks the uninvolved third party for help," Milstead said. "That person retreats back to his vehicle, removes his own weapon from the vehicle, confronts the suspect, giving him orders to stop assaulting the officer. The suspect refuses. The uninvolved third party fires, striking and killing the suspect."

Speaking from the hospital to which his trooper was taken, Milstead offered more detail about the fight and what happened next.
"The suspect is getting the better of the trooper and is on top of him and striking the trooper's head on the pavement," he explained.
At that point, an "uninvolved third party" who was driving with his wife to California saw the trooper grappling with the suspect and stopped to help.
"The trooper says, 'Please help me,' and asks the uninvolved third party for help," Milstead said. "That person retreats back to his vehicle, removes his own weapon from the vehicle, confronts the suspect, giving him orders to stop assaulting the officer. The suspect refuses. The uninvolved third party fires, striking and killing the suspect."

While it's early in the investigation, Cecil said initial indications are that the man who shot the trooper might have been involved in the initial rollover. It's not clear how or even if the suspect and the woman from the rollover were connected. Neither one has been identified.

"At this time, we don't know exactly how the events played out other than our trooper got on scene at that rollover collision after responding to a shots fired call and then he was subsequently ambushed and shot," Cecil said. "Investigators are interviewing witnesses, interviewing our trooper. They're the ones who are going to be able to solidify the timeline for us."
When asked about the motive of the suspect and from where he came, Milstead had a simple answer.
"I have no idea," he said. "Everything happened down in the middle of nowhere and all of the people that knew what happened are dead -- except for my trooper, who drove upon this scene. So, we have a lot of investigation to do. ... We don't know what the story is, and we'll figure that out as time goes on."

Among the unanswered questions is whether the suspect who died at the scene is the same person who fired at the car just east of California, spawning the initial 911 call that sent the trooper into action.
The wounded trooper, who was shot in the right shoulder, was air-lifted from the scene to Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear. Video from there showed him being wheeled on a gurney from the medical helicopter into the hospital. His injury reportedly is serious but not life-threatening.

"We are so relieved to hear this brave officer is safe, and will recover," Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement on the incident. "This incident is another reminder of the risks that the men and women who wake up each morning and put on the badge take for our state.

"I urge Arizonans to join me in praying for a quick recovery for this brave officer," he continued, "and thanking everyone who, through their actions in real time, showed our officers exactly what Arizona means when we say: 'You have our backs -- and we will always have yours.'"

At this point, DPS is not releasing the trooper's name, saying only that he is assigned to a commercial vehicle squad and has worked the same stretch of I-10 for more than two decades. Milstead described him as "an incredibly tough individual."

He also had words of thanks for good Samaritan who stopped to help.

"I don't know that my trooper would be alive today without his assistance," Milstead said.
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