Phoenix Police officer on life support after being shot, suspect in custody, department says

As of Dec. 29, a Phoenix Police officer is on life support and remains in extremely critical condition after being shot, and the person responsible is in custody and facing a multi-million dollar bond, the department said.

"Officer Moldovan continues to fight for his life and remains in extremely critical condition. We ask that you continue to keep him, his family, and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers," the department said in its most recent update on the young officer's condition.

Shooting on Dec. 14

According to Sgt. Vincent Cole, officers were investigating reports of vehicles driving erratically near 19th Avenue and Camelback Road just after 2 a.m. on Dec. 14. Police located a car matching the description of the vehicles at an apartment complex near 15th Avenue and Camelback Road.

As police searched the area for the driver, Officer Tyler 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.

"As the second police officer ran towards the scene of the shooting, the male subject saw the police officer running toward him and yanked harder multiple times on the victim officers handgun trying to pull it out of the holster as the second officer was running toward him," read a portion of court documents.

Williams threw himself to the ground but resisted arrest. Another officer ultimately made it to the shooting scene and Williams was taken into custody.

"[Williams] made spontaneous utterances after his arrest asking the officers to shoot him and said another individual did it," read a portion of court documents.

Officer Moldovan was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in critical condition. Court documents said Moldovan was shot up to eight times, including once in the head.

Williams is accused of attempted first-degree murder, possession of a weapon by a prohibited person and resisting arrest.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 30. His bond is set at $3 million.

The suspect has a lengthy criminal record

Years before Phoenix Police say he shot Moldovan, Williams had already been accused of serious charges.

Court documents reveal, within just a few days in September 2014, Williams, who was 17 at the time, stole two cars, one of them during an armed robbery. He was also charged with aggravated assault in that time span.

Those cases were investigated by the Glendale Police Department.

Just months later in January 2015, court documents say Williams used a gun he stole from a friend to shoot at the same person and other associates when they came to his home. Police say Williams ran outside and shot several rounds at his own house and one of the bullets went through a neighbor’s window.

Ultimately, Williams would be convicted and sentenced to prison in 2017 for armed robbery, aggravated assault and endangerment.

In April 2020, he was released on an absolute discharge.

"The irony of this ... our officers put this uniform on every day not knowing what is going to happen to them on any given shift. They are true heroes," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

Essa Kolareh Eugene Williams, 24

Essa Kolareh Eugene Williams, 24

Officer grew up in the Valley

Moldovan has roots in the Valley, growing up in Scottsdale with a big family. He turned 22 in November and recently got married.

He's also enrolled at Arizona State University where he's currently a junior studying business administration. Moldovan has been with the Phoenix Police Department for a year and a half and had recently started working solo.

A week after Moldovan was shot, his boss at the Desert Horizon precinct, says he and his colleagues are praying for a Christmas miracle.

"Just hang in there and keep fighting, we’re all supporting you in every way that we can. We want you back," said Phoenix Police Commander Brian Issitt.

He struggled to hold back tears as he spoke of his visit with Moldovan.

"To see my officer with his family in the hospital is one of the hardest things that I’ve had to see. I’m just trying to keep everybody focused. As long as he’s fighting, we are going to fight with him," Issitt said.

Phoenix Police Officer Tyler Moldovan

Phoenix Police Officer Tyler Moldovan

‘Mind-blowing that anything like this could happen’

A community stunned, in silence, hoping for the best.

"We knew as a community we needed to come together and do a prayer vigil for him," said a community member at the vigil on Dec. 21.

Dozens joined together, holding candles in honor of the young officer. They prayed for Moldovan who had just moved into the neighborhood with his wife.

"We’re very blessed that so many people are coming out to pray with us and come to our community tree," said vigil organizer Tracee Cajthaml.

A group of Phoenix Police officers joined the vigil, grateful for the support.

"Mind-blowing that anything like this could happen to somebody in our community, much less an officer," said Kim Monson, who also organized the vigil.

She added, "We pray for you. We pray for your family and we just pray for Tyler and that he overcomes this and is able to go back to his job and comes home soon."

Fundraiser for Officer Moldovan's family

A BBQ fundraiser was held on Dec. 17 to benefit Officer Moldovan's family. The event was hosted by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association at 1102 W. Adams Street in Phoenix.

It was held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 100% of the proceeds will go to the officer's family.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams says she, along with the department and the community, call this young officer a fighter.

"We’re hopeful. He’s still alive and that’s a blessing. He's a fighter, he’s resilient, he's tenacious. I think in his heart of hearts he knows he has all the support in the world … from our community as well," said Chief Williams.

Moldovan's squad gathered together, rallying for the rookie officer. Although he graduated from the police academy less than a year ago, Moldovan is already being called a rising star within the department.

"His family has a business – they tried to get him to work in the business and his heart and soul and passion was being a servant, Serving others before himself. That’s the character that he is," Williams said. "As we enter into the holiday season, I’m always taken a little aback because the family is going through such a challenging time. Keep them in your thoughts and your prayers, it’s all about Tyler today."

Donations will also be accepted at pleacharities.org.

Law enforcement, community responds to the shooting

"Earlier this morning, Officer Tyler Moldovan was shot multiple times protecting and serving our community," said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams hours after the shooting. "We know that the doctors and the medical staff at the hospital are doing everything they can possibly do to save him. This kind of incident sends shock waves throughout our entire Valley. There are no words when this kind of incident happens."

Moldovan just celebrated his birthday and graduated from the police academy in March.

"Arizona is pulling for Officer Tyler Moldovan and our prayers are with his family and loved ones," Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement. "Law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and this terrible shooting is another example of the danger they face to keep us safe."

President Michael London of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association released a statement regarding the shooting:

"The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association is saddened by the shooting of Phoenix Police Officer Tyler Moldovan. Officer Moldovan is a rising star within the department, representing the next generation of public safety leaders committed to serving and protecting our community. The men and women of the Phoenix Police Department are selfless and brave community servants who go above and beyond each day, risking their lives to keep our neighborhoods safe. We thank each of them for continued service during these challenging times. This is a difficult day for our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, and we will continue to keep Officer Moldovan and his family in our thoughts and prayers."

Continuing Coverage:

A fundraiser for Ofc. Moldovan.

A fundraiser for Ofc. Moldovan.

More Arizona crime news

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news:

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 10 News app. It is FREE! Download for Apple iOS or Android.