Shooting of Scottsdale Police sergeant leaves some Downtown Phoenix residents feeling less safe

A week after a shooting in Downtown Phoenix left a Scottsdale Police sergeant injured as the First Friday art event was taking place nearby, people living in the Roosevelt Row area of Downtown Phoenix are talking about the issue of safety.

The shooting happened on Jan. 6, when members of the Scottsdale Police's Special Assignments Unit served a search warrant at an apartment complex near 1st Avenue and Roosevelt after receiving a number of tips about the shooting suspect, since identified as 37-year-old Kenneth Hearne.

When authorities arrived at the apartment, a woman and child came out. Hearne was spotted inside and ducked behind a wall, police said. Detectives were trying to talk to him when they were shot at through the wall, and the sergeant, since identified as Scott Galbraith, was hit.

Sgt. Galbraith was reportedly shot in the abdomen, He is expected to make a full recovery and be able to return to full duty. As for Hearne, he was found in Tempe on Jan. 7. When police moved in to arrest him, Hearne reportedly brought out a gun. Police shot him in response. Hearn later died at the hospital.

Read More: Scottsdale Police shooting suspect was wanted in sexual assault case, police say

Some area residents still shaken over what happened

Many people who call Downtown Phoenix home were in the area when the shooting happened, and the incident, along with who was involved, has left some really shaken.

"Just the fear of not knowing, and just knowing that there’s a guy with a gun. Don’t know where he is, so just went into my room, locking the doors and just kind of stayed low," said Breanna Steele.

Steele is a senior at Arizona State University, and she was separated from the chaos by one floor. She said the shooting emphasized in her mind a growning sense of unease in the area, compared to when she started school three years ago.

"Definitely a lot more crime I’ve been seeing, and I’m a little more scared to just walk back home from school, which is just a 10-minute walk or less," said Steele.

After a few encounters with strangers in her junior year, Steele even got a device known as cat claws to protect herself.

"You keep it here just in case, so if you’re feeling a little unsafe, just kind of have it right there," said Steele.

Another Roosevelt Row resident, identified only as ‘Braden,’ says he has personally seen, and even experienced, more issues lately.

"It just seems to be happening more and more," said Braden. "I've had a knife pulled on me, and I’ve had people yell at me from across the street, saying ‘I’m going to kill you.’"

However, not everyone is feeling less safe in the area.

"I feel like it’s normal to have like an instant reaction when something like this happens, but overall, cities and the country are much, much safer than they were many, many years ago," said Kaleb Landrum.

"We live in Downtown, and sometimes, it can just come with the territory with city life, right? But Roosevelt area, we still feel safe, we still feel great," said Sam Ostrowski. "It’s such an up-and coming, growing community."

What are crime data saying about safety in the area?

According to data, homicide rates in Phoenix shot up more than 40% in 2020, with the statistics remaining nearly the same in 2021. Meanwhile, thefts and rape increased in those years, while burglary and aggravated assault decreased in the same span.

Maps from the Phoenix Police Department also show a clustering of crime hot spots in areas near Downtown.

While conclusive and accessible 2022 data are not available as of now, national trends suggest there has been an overall decrease in crime.

We reached out to officials with Phoenix Police for an interview, but we were unable to speak to someone ahead of the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

As for student safety, officials with ASU say they have patrols and crime prevention cameras on campus.

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