New details on officer involved shooting that seriously injured officer

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Phoenix Police officials have released new details surrounding an officer involved shooting Thursday night that sent a police officer and the suspect to the hospital.

In a statement released by Sgt. Mercedes Fortune Friday afternoon, the police officer, only identified as a 27-year-old male officer with two years of service, was patrolling in the area of N. 25th Street and E. Cactus Road at around 8:00 p.m. when he tried to stop a car that had been driven erratically in traffic. The car failed to stop, and continued west on E. Cactus Road until the car entered the left turn lane at the intersection of E. Cactus and N. Cave Creek Road, and stopped at the light.

Sgt. Fortune said after the car stopped, the officer exited his marked police car, and began to approach the car. The officer then tried to get the suspect's attention by verbally asking to see his hands, but the suspect shot the officer. The officer was able to return fire, despite his injury. The suspect then left his car, walked towards the officer, and continued to shoot. The officer was able to return fire, ending the threat.

Johnnie Maestas, a kitchen manager at a nearby restaurant, said he heard about six shots.

"I was walking out the back door with a customer, and we heard what sounded like gunshots," said Maestas. "We were kind of shocked, and we both kind of ducked and both came back inside."

Carolina Garcia, meanwhile, was working at another restaurant in the area when the incident happened.

"He went in and said something crazy just happened. I heard gunshots," said Garcia. "That's when we started seeing all cops coming from every direction and we said OK, what's going on? What do we do? It's scary. We've never gone through something like that before."

The restaurant Maestas works at ended up closing up shop early to protect their employees and customers. 

"One cop started blocking the road off. We lock the doors, the people in here finished eating and we let them out and kept people from coming in, just because we didn't really know what was going on and if anybody else still running around," said Maestas.

The officer, according to Sgt. Fortune, was taken to the hospital with critical injuries. The suspect, identified as a 41-year-old male, was also taken to the hospital with critical injuries. Both are expected to survive.

"I'm thankful that my officer is alive. I'm thankful for the show of support from the community and police department," said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams.

Police shootings on the rise

The incident on Thursday marks the 34th police shooting involving Phoenix Police officers in 2018, and with the department at an all-time high when it comes to officer-involved shootings, many are wondering what's going on.

According to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, from January to end of July 2018, there has been 59 police shootings throughout the county. A third of the shootings involved a mentally ill subject, and in a third of the shootings, the suspect was killed.

Chief Williams said she recognizes there is a problem with the high amount of police shootings, and she said aggravated assaults against her officers have gone up 45% this year. While she said she does not know why there has been such a huge spike in violence, she is taking action by implementing more training and awareness among the force.

"The majority of our critical incident are patrol officers. They're the ones making initial contact with people," said Chief Williams. "We're training them in tactics, decision making. Training them where to park cars or not park cars. At the same time, we're also engaging the community."

In every police shootings this year, officers were confronted by an armed suspect, and the majority of those who have been on the other end of a Phoenix Police officer's service weapon are convicted felons who have done time for aggravated assault, drugs, DUI, and robbery.

"We've had all ethnicities, all genders. We've seen people with mental health issues. Alcohol, drug issues. To piece those puzzle pieces together is hopefully what the study will do," said Chief Williams, referring to a year-long study of critical incidents in the Phoenix Police Department that is currently underway.

"It's a tough job, they're just doing their job," said Maestas. "I don't know, it's dangerous job and going to pray for all of them and hope they get home safe."

"It really breaks my heart," said Garcia. "They're just trying to do their job and protect everybody, but people, they don't listen."

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