As the chief trial counsel in the Pima County Attorney’s Office, I am responsible for handling police officer involved shootings. This involves being called out to the shooting scene, reviewing all the evidence and making a determination whether the shooting was legally justified.
Sadly, I was called out again on Sunday morning, July 22 at 2 a.m. Unfortunately, this was the third call-out for a police officer involved shooting in a single week, and there are four more at my office awaiting legal review.
Almost daily we learn of deadly confrontations between police and citizens.
The media covers this police violence but too often the focus of the news is on how many people are shot and/or killed by police.
There is rarely the counterpoint of the risks officers face, how they are assaulted, threatened, endangered, and how they put their lives on the line to fight crime and keep our communities safe.
For example, I recently had the privilege of prosecuting a case in which TPD Officer Robert Miranda literally was a half-inch away from becoming part of this year’s Fallen Officer Memorial.
On October 24, 2016, Officer Miranda and his partner, Robert Orduño, were attempting to prevent crime by proactively patrolling in a high-crime Tucson neighborhood.
They had the misfortune and bad luck to encounter Marcus Delatorre, a two-time convicted felon. Delatorre had previously served prison time for assaulting a police officer, and as a result was a prohibited possessor, banned from having a gun. Despite the weapons prohibition, that night Delatorre was carrying a concealed Glock 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.
As Delatorre blew through a stop sign on a motorized bike in front of the officers, Miranda and Orduño attempted a traffic stop. Rather than stopping, Delatorre fled the scene and a chase occurred. Ditching his bike, Delatorre ran on foot and Miranda chased him. Delatorre jumped a fence, turned and drew his Glock, deliberately firing directly at Officer Miranda’s head.
Officer Miranda dove to the pavement and returned fire. Delatorre continued to fire repeatedly at Miranda, striking him in the forehead. By some miracle, the bullet did not penetrate, but it left a permanent gash across his skull. As Miranda lay bleeding in the street, Officer Orduño drove up in the squad car, ran toward the danger, and exchanged gunfire with Delatorre who emptied his Glock at him. Orduño ultimately managed to hold Delatorre at gunpoint until backup arrived.
TPD officers Robert Miranda and Robert Orduño are brave and courageous unsung heroes. They took an oath to protect and serve, and in doing so, put aside their own personal safety to apprehend an armed felon.
Like all of Pima County law enforcement, these two officers risk their lives to protect this community every day that they are out on patrol. This deserves our recognition. At a time when some police have made headlines for the wrong reasons, and fueled public distrust of law enforcement, such acts of police heroism too often go unnoticed and unacknowledged.
A Pima County jury convicted Marcus Delatorre of all charges. He was sentenced in June to 25ƒ years in prison.