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Officer, Suspect Killed In Phoenix Gunbattle

Officer, Suspect Killed In Phoenix Gunbattle

Arizona Republic via YellowBrix

May 02, 2011

PHOENIX – Authorities were still searching Sunday for a third man wanted in the slaying of one Buckeye police officer and the critical wounding of another during a gunbattle at a west Phoenix swap meet.

Officer Rolando Tirado was killed and Officer Christopher Paz was in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds after an altercation with three men escalated into a gunfight at 1800 S. 35th Ave. early Sunday, Phoenix police said.

One suspect was killed and another was in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, said Sgt. Tommy Thompson. The third man fled the scene, he said.

The dispute began about 1:15 a.m. when the two officers, working off duty as security, contacted the occupants of a vehicle that was reported to have been driving recklessly on the property, said Buckeye police Lt. Jared Griffith.

“A gunbattle took place,” Griffith said. “Unfortunately, one of the officers was killed in the shootout and one of the suspects was also killed.”

Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck said he was praying for the officers’ families. “My thoughts and prayers are with the officers, their families and our police personnel,” Meck said.

Thompson said, “Anytime an officer dies, it tears at the core of our community,” adding, “If a person is willing to shoot at an officer, they are certainly willing to shoot at a member of the community.”

Tirado, an 11-year police veteran, was a married father of two children. Paz started with the Buckeye Police Department 4 1/2 years ago, Griffith said.

Tirado’s death is the Buckeye department’s first fatality of 2011, according to records.

Police said they would release the names of the suspects late Sunday or early today.

Thompson said the two officers were working the security detail at a business called El Gran Mercado. Such moonlighting is common for police officers.

The location is known for hosting events, such as concerts or dancing, but it was unclear what was being hosted Saturday night and early Sunday, Thompson said.

The swap meet, where beer is sold, was the scene of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office raid in September 2009. More than 200 deputies and posse members converged on the market and arrested 53 people, including 10 vendors. Of those arrested, 24 were illegal. Authorities also seized thousands of bootleg DVDs said to be worth more than $100,000.

Every day across Maricopa County, hundreds of police officers work off duty to help pay bills, buy Christmas gifts or save for their children’s college education, Thompson said.

It was unclear why Buckeye officers were working the Phoenix security detail instead of Phoenix officers. It was also not known whether other off-duty officers were on the scene, Thompson said.

“Investigators are on the scene meticulously combing evidence to determine what led up to a deadly gunbattle,” he said.

Tirado’s slaying came a day before the 38th Arizona Peace Officers Memorial Service. It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza near the state Capitol.

The event honors officers who died in the line of duty in 2010 and puts their names on a plaque. Those slain last year were Officer Carlos Ledesma, Chandler Police Department; Officer Travis Murphy, Phoenix Police Department; Deputy Brian Harris, Kane County (Utah) Sheriff’s Office, killed while pursuing a fugitive from Utah into Arizona; and Agents Michael Gallagher and Brian Terry of the U.S. Border Patrol.

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