Video footage from a deadly shooting earlier this month shows a gunman hiding in a car wash before opening fire on Tucson police officers.
Daniel Spear, 35, was killed Oct. 18 after being shot multiple times when four Tucson police officers returned fire.
The incident started as an attempted carjacking in the parking lot of Desert Sports and Fitness near North Pantano and East Wrightstown roads when a man was approached by two gunmen, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said Friday in a news conference.
The man was struck in the head with an unknown object, and ran toward the gym. The gunmen were seen rummaging through the man’s vehicle. One of the gunmen then fired several times toward the man who was attacked at the gym.
Spear ran away and the second gunman left in a white pickup truck, Magnus said.
Spear was spotted in a bay at a car wash in the 7800 block of East Wrightstown Road during a search that included several officers as well as the use of the department’s helicopter, Magnus said.
Security footage at the car wash shows Spear carrying a handgun and a shotgun. He talked on the phone for several minutes while trying to find a hiding place, the video shows.
Search lights from TPD’s chopper flooded through one end of the bay, as Spear dropped the handgun. He then ran out, firing the shotgun at officers as he ran toward an unmarked police vehicle that had pulled into the car wash entrance moments before, the video shows.
Several shots fired by Spear struck the vehicle of a K9 officer who had arrived on the scene, Magnus said.
Spear shot at the officer who ran from the squad car before getting into the passenger side. Finding no keys inside, he waited a few moments before exiting the truck and firing on officers again, the video shows.
Police returned fire with handguns and rifles, striking Spear multiple times, Magnus said.
“These types of ambush-style tactics are being seen more and more frequently,” Magnus said.
Nearly two dozen officers responded to the scene to assist in the investigation, Magnus said, adding that the response took up 25 percent of all the on-duty officers at the time.
With 109 line-of-duty deaths for American police officers in 2017, this year is on pace to match or exceed the number of those killed last year, Magnus said.
An ambush typically involves an element of surprise, an assailant who conceals themselves or their weapons, a sudden attack and a lack of provocation, Magnus explained, adding that ambush-style killings of police are at a 10-year high.
“There are many cases where, obviously the goal of the suspect is to get away,” Magnus said. “In this case, it’s pretty evident that the goal was to do more than that. The goal was to secret himself in ambush, to ready his weapons, and then to shoot it out. That’s the challenge that we’re up against, in that we don’t know what a given suspect’s intentions might be.”
Spear had a lengthy criminal history, having just been released from prison in March after serving a five-year sentence for several armed robberies, Magnus said. His arrest history is “extensive,” and included incidents of domestic violence, aggravated assaults, aggravated DUI, possession of dangerous drugs and trafficking in stolen property, Magnus said.
“I’m so proud of the courageous and skillful work of our officers who were up against this type of assailant,” Magnus said. “Their work on that night, I think, is the definition of courage and bravery. I believe they handled this incident in an extremely tactically proficient and capable way.”
The department is conducting an ongoing investigation of the second gunman. Police are asking anyone who saw either Spear or his companion to contact police.
The night of the incident, the white pickup truck that was involved in the incident at the gym was located in the 5600 block of East First Street. The driver was detained during a traffic stop, but was later released.
“We believe (the second man) does have some connection to a pickup truck that was stopped some distance from the scene, but we’re not prepared to release any information on that person at this time,” Magnus said.
The Tucson police officers who fired during the incident are Officer Nathaniel Foster, a 10-year veteran of the department; Officer Rafael Rodriguez, a 6-year veteran; Officer Carter Wingate, a 4-year veteran; and Officer Matthew Kosmider, a 3-year veteran of the department.
“We’re fortunate that our officers are well-trained and I think, considering the circumstances, showed great restraint,” Magnus said.
TPD officers have been involved in three fatal shootings this year, Magnus said.