Mistaken Identity: Family wants Phoenix Police to admit to making a deadly mistake

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It was a deadly case of mistaken identity, when a man was shot and killed by Phoenix Police after officers mistook him for the armed gunman they had been searching for. Now, that man's family wants the department to admit they made a fatal mistake.

30-year-old Henry Rivera happened to look a lot like Eddison Noyola, the subject of an intense manhunt. Relatives say Rivera ran from police because he had warrants out for his arrest for trespassing and failing to appear in court. Now, Rivera's family says they are seeking justice. They want the Phoenix Police department to be held responsible for his death.

"I think it was just all sloppily carried out," said Henry's sister, Joanna Rivera, in a phone interview. "They didn't investigate properly. They didn't do their jobs properly."

Joanna said she does not want revenge on the officers who shot him. She wants accountability.

"They were just too quick to act on their tip. They were just too quick to act on everything," said Joanna.

Unfortunately for Henry, he looked similar to Noyola, who was wanted for going on a deadly shooting rampage. Henry was in a motel room with his girlfriend and three-month-old baby when police stormed in. Police say they got a tip that Noyola was at the motel. Henry jumped out of the window and ran. Some officers gave chase, while other officers stayed with the girlfriend, who reportedly tried to tell them they were after the wrong guy.

"I think that if those two officers communicated that information over the radio to the other police officers, they would've known that they weren't dealing with the armed suspect they were looking for, and maybe he wouldn't have gotten shot," said Joanna.

Police say Henry was reaching for his waistband when two veteran officers fired shots. One has 23 years of experience, the other has been with the force for 15 years. As it turns out, Henry did not have a gun. Now, relatives are criticizing police for not confirming the person they were shooting at.

At the time, police say officers were confident it was their suspect.

"The indications they had that this was Noyola they were looking for," said Sgt. Tommy Thompson with the Phoenix Police Department.

"We need them to admit to their mistakes," said Joanna.

As for Noyola, he was found and taken into custody the day after Henry was killed. Henry leaves behind four children and two step kids. Phoenix Police officials say they could not comment on this case, due to pending litigation.