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Driver In Arizona Police Slaying Found Guilty

Driver In Arizona Police Slaying Found Guilty

Gilbert Police Lt. Eric Shuhandler (left) was shot and killed in a shopping center parking lot during a traffic stop. Christoper Redondo (top right) and Daimen Irizarry are suspects in the case.

Arizona Republic via YellowBrix

July 23, 2010

GILBERT, AZ – A jury has handed down a guilty verdict Thursday against a man who led police on a 50-mile chase after a Gilbert officer was fatally shot during a traffic stop earlier this year. The getaway driver in the slaying of a Gilbert police officer was found guilty Thursday on 13 counts.

The jury convicted Damien Joseph Irizarry, 31, on eight counts of aggravated assault, four counts of drive-by shooting, and one of unlawful flight.

The jury will now decide if aggravating factors exist and if the state has met its burden of proof.

On Jan. 28, Lt. Eric Shuhandler, 42, was left dead in a supermarket parking lot, having been shot in the face.

Christopher Redondo, 35, is accused of being the shooter. Redondo was charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty when he goes on trial next year. He also is charged with four counts of drive-by shooting and 19 counts of aggravated assault.

Redondo also was indicted in an unrelated 2009 murder in Miami, Ariz.

Irizarry, 31, argued during his trial that he was acting out of fear that Redondo would turn the gun on him if he didn’t cooperate and drive him away from the scene of the crime.

With Irizarry as the driver, the pair led at least 12 police vehicles on a 50-mile chase up U.S. 60 toward Superior. When their truck ran out of gas, Irizarry and Redondo hid behind it, prompting police to shoot their feet and legs out from under them.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez argued during Irizarry’s trial that the he actively helped Redondo escape after Shuhandler’s murder, holding the escape truck steady as Redondo took shots at police cars and climbed in the back to throw a generator, a hydraulic jack and other tools at pursuing police.

But defense attorney Chad Shell argued the two men hardly knew each other. They were thrown together that day in Gilbert because their fathers knew each other, he argued. Redondo and Irizarry, both high on methamphetamine, wound up in Redondo’s father’s work truck headed to Superior when Shuhandler pulled them over around 10:45 p.m. at the corner of Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road.

They were pulled because they had an obstructed license plate. Irizarry handed over his driver’s license. Redondo was not carrying identification.

Redondo got out to fix the license plate at Shuhandler’s request, according to Shell. Then, he returned to the passenger side of the truck and became agitated.

A shot rang out, and Shell argued at trial that Redondo then ordered Irizarry to drive toward U.S. 60. Two Mesa police sergeants found Shuhandler on his back gasping for breath.

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