2022 marks dangerous year for law enforcement officers in Arizona, statistics show
PHOENIX - 2022 has been an especially dangerous year for Arizona peace officers, as there have been more than a dozen officers who were injured while on duty since the start of the year.
So far in 2022, two officers were shot and killed while on duty, including the Yavapai County Sheriff's deputy who was shot and killed on June 28. The first death of a peace officer happened on June 2, when White Mountain Apache Police Department officer Adrian Lopez was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
Besides the two deaths, more than a dozen officers statewide have been injured while on duty, since December 2021.
Phoenix Police officer continues to recover after being shot, suspect in custody, department says
The shooting that seriously injured Phoenix Police officer Tyler Moldovan happened during the early morning hours of Dec. 14, when officers investigating reports of a vehicle driving erratically found a matching car at an apartment complex near 15th Avenue and Camelback Road.
As police searched the area for the driver, Officer Moldovan, 22, found the suspect, identified as 24-year-old Essa Kolareh Eugene Williams, hiding behind a wall of an apartment patio.
Court paperwork shows that Moldovan was shot eight times, including once in the head.
"The subject was on the phone telling someone he was going to jail," read a portion of court documents. "[Moldovan] asked the subject if he had any weapons and he said no. The male subject produced a handgun from his waist area, raised it at the police officer, and fired multiple times."
Officer Moldovan fell to the ground and the suspect continued to fire gunshots at him "while he was lying on the ground unresponsive."
After the shooting, Williams allegedly tried to pull Moldovan's handgun from its holster before being tackled by another officer.
Officer Moldovan was initially on was on life support in extremely critical condition, but in January 2022, the department announced that Officer Moldovan was released from the hospital, and sent to a rehab facility. In June, it was reported that Officer Moldovan has returned home.
South Phoenix shooting: Police release new video showing incident that injured nine officers
In one incident in February, 9 Phoenix Police officers were injured during a barricade situation.
Of the nine officers injured, four of them were shot.
Phoenix Police officials said at the time that the incident began after a woman had reportedly been shot in a home just after 2 a.m. on Feb. 11. In a critical incident briefing that was released on Feb. 25, Phoenix Police officials said it was the suspect in the shooting, identified as 36-year-old Morris Richard Jones III, who called police, claiming that his wife had been shot by an intruder.
When an officer approached the house, Jones reportedly invited him inside before shooting him multiple times in an ambush.
"The first officer was shot multiple times. He was injured the most significantly. Non-life-threatening. At this time, he’s expected to survive," said Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Williams.
"Chilling because there was no opportunity for my officer to even do what he was trained to do," said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams.
Backup officers later arrived and surrounded the home, with Jones barricaded inside.
At some point during the standoff, a man inside the home, since identified as the brother of the female victim, walked out and placed a baby on the ground before being detained. The female victim was identified as 29-year-old Shatifah Lobley of Phoenix. That man was seen on video walking outside dropping the child off, then walking toward police with his hands up. Police officials said they did detain the man, and he is cooperating with investigators.
"Family members have confirmed for our detectives that the infant is one month old and is a shared child between Lobley and suspect Morris Richard Jones," Phoenix Police said in a news release on Feb. 12.
As officers approached the house to get the baby, the gunman opened fire. Eventually, police were able to get inside the home and found Jones dead along with Lobley.
Female Phoenix Police officer shot in north Phoenix convenience store
That shooting that injured Phoenix Police officer Denise Bruce-Jones happened on April 14, at a convenience store near Cave Creek and Beardsley Roads. At the store, officers said a woman called them, saying she went to the gas station to meet with officers and talk to them about the situation because she was too scared to meet at her home.
"They were over there for a while, talking to a lady. I turn my back when [I hear] gunshots, maybe 10 of them, and see an officer drop," said witness Gary Macagni.
Witnesses saw one officer jump onto the other to provide cover, but the damage was already done.
"They took an ambulance out, down the street that way, with about four or five police cars following the ambulance," said Gene Onstein.
Bruce-Jones, 40, was hit at least once in the stomach. For a time, a Blue Alert was issued for the suspect, identified as Nicholas Cowan. The alert was subsequently canceled. Cowan was later arrested following a barricade situation at a property near 66th Street and Osborn Road in Scottsdale.
Phoenix Police detective ambushed, shot several times; suspects arrested
In an incident on June 14, a Phoenix Police detective was taken to the hospital after being shot several times by two men, according to officials.
The incident happened in south Phoenix, just before 12:15 p.m. near 39th Avenue and Baseline Road, when a detective was conducting a follow-up investigation inside an unmarked car. While the detective was inside her car, a vehicle pulled up and slowed down next to her before continuing down the road. A short time later, the same vehicle returned to the area and drove past the detective's car once again. The vehicle then stopped behind the detective's car and two men got out.
"The two men got out of the car with handguns drawn and pulled masks over their faces," Sgt. Philip Krynsky said. "Through the rearview mirror the detective was able to see the actions of the two males and began to put on her police ballistic vest and draw her handgun."
One of the men stood in front of the detective's car, while the other stood outside the passenger door.
Both men then fired 19 gunshots at the car, striking the detective multiple times as she got out of her vehicle.
"Due to her injuries the detective was unable to fire back." Sgt. Krynsky added.
After the shooting, the two men ran back to their car. The detective was able to call for help over her radio. The two suspects, identified as 22-year-old Ahmani Gordon and 22-year-old Aaron Ware, were later arrested and booked into jail for alleged attempted first-degree murder.
Police officials said the officer shot is a 19-year veteran of the department, and her ballistic vest is credited for saving her life.
Police union officials demand change
As more police officers are injured while on duty, officials with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association are demanding changes.
"It’s mind-boggling, so it's time to stand up as a community and say that we support our police, and enough is enough," said Darrell Kriplean with PLEA. "It’s heartbreaking. This is something that I have never experienced in the 28 years of being a police officer. This year is something."
Recently, Phoenix Police created a whole division to crack down on gun violence. Department officials said instances of homicides with firearms are up 45% this year over the same time last year.
The rise in gun crimes is not unique to Phoenix, as similar rises are happening in other parts of the country.