PHOENIX – 2022 has been a particularly dangerous year for Arizona peace officers, as more than a dozen officers have been injured on duty since the start of the year.
So far in 2022, two officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty, including the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Deputy who was shot and killed on June 28. The first death of a peace officer occurred on June 2, when White Mountain Apache Police Department constable Adrian Lopez was shot and killed during a traffic check.
In addition to the two fatalities, more than a dozen officers statewide have been injured in the line of duty, since December 2021.
The shooting that seriously injured Phoenix police officer Tyler Moldovan occurred in the early morning hours of December 14, when officers investigating reports of an erratically driving vehicle found a matching car at an apartment complex near 15th Avenue and Camelback Road.
As police searched the area for the driver, Constable Moldovan, 22, found the suspect, identified as Essa Kolareh Eugene Williams, 24, hiding behind an apartment patio wall.
Court documents show that Moldovan was shot eight times, including one in the head.
“Subject was on the phone to tell someone he was going to jail,” read part of the court documents. “[Moldovan] asked subject if he had any weapons and he said no. The male subject pulled a handgun from his waist, pointed it at the officer, and fired several times.”
The Moldovan officer fell to the ground and the suspect continued to shoot him “as he lay on the ground unresponsive”.
After the shooting, Williams allegedly attempted to remove Moldovan’s handgun from its holster before being tackled by another officer.
The Moldovan officer was initially on life support in extremely critical condition, but in January 2022, the department announced that Agent Moldovan was released from the hospital and sent to a rehab facility. In June, it was reported that The Moldovan officer returned home.
In one incident in February, 9 Phoenix police officers were injured during a barricade situation.
Of the nine officers injured, four were shot.
Phoenix police officials said at the time that the incident began after a woman was allegedly shot in a home just after 2 a.m. on February 11. In a critical incident briefing released 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 allegedly invited him inside before shooting him repeatedly in an ambush.
“The first officer was shot several times. He was the most seriously injured. Not life threatening. At this time it is expected that he will survive,” said Phoenix Police Sergeant. Andy Williams.
“Chilling because there was no opportunity for my officer to do what he was trained to do,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.
Reinforcement officers later arrived and surrounded the house, with Jones barricaded inside.
At some point during the clash, a man inside the house, since identified as the victim’s brother, came out and placed a baby on the floor before being arrested. The female victim has been identified as Shatifah Lobley, 29, of Phoenix. This man was seen on video walking outside dropping off the child, then walking towards police with his hands in the air. Police officials said they arrested the man and that he is cooperating with investigators.
“Family members have confirmed to our detectives that the baby is one month old and is a shared child between Lobley and suspect Morris Richard Jones,” Phoenix police said in a Feb. 12 news release.
As officers approached the house to retrieve the baby, the shooter opened fire. Eventually the police were able to get inside the house and found Jones dead with Lobley.
This shooting, which injured Phoenix police officer Denise Bruce-Jones, occurred on April 14 at a convenience store near Cave Creek and Beardsley Roads. At the store, officers said a woman called them, saying she had gone to the gas station to meet with officers and tell them about the situation because she was too scared to meet at her home.
“They were there for a while, talking to a lady. I turn my back when [I hear] shots, maybe 10 of them, and seeing an officer fall,” witness Gary Macagni said.
Witnesses saw one officer jump over the other for cover, but the damage was already done.
“They took an ambulance down the street over there, with about four or five police cars following the ambulance,” Gene Onstein said.
Bruce-Jones, 40, was shot at least once in the stomach. For a while, a blue alert was issued for the suspect, identified as Nicholas Cowan. The alert was later cancelled. Cowan was later arrested following a barricade situation at a property near 66th Street and Osborn Road in Scottsdale.
In an incident on June 14, a Phoenix police detective was taken to hospital after being shot multiple times by two men, officials said.
The incident occurred in south of 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 stopped and slowed down beside her before continuing on the road. Shortly after, the same vehicle returned to the area and drove past the detective’s car again. The vehicle then stopped behind the detective’s car and two men got out.
“Both men got out of the car with handguns drawn and pulled masks over their faces,” said Sgt. said Philip Krynsky. “Through the rear view mirror, the detective was able to see the actions of the two men and proceeded 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 in front of the passenger door.
The two men then fired 19 shots at the car, hitting the detective multiple times as she exited her vehicle.
“Due to his injuries, the detective was unable to return fire.” sergeant. Krynsky added.
After the shooting, the two men ran to their car. The detective was able to call for help on his radio. The two suspects, identified as Ahmani Gordon, 22, and Aaron Ware, 22, were later arrested and jailed for attempted first degree murder.
Police officials said the shot officer was a 19-year veteran of the department and his ballistic vest saved his life.
Police union officials demand change
As more police are injured on duty, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association officials are demanding change.
“It’s mind-boggling, so it’s time to stand up as a community and say we stand with our police, and enough is enough,” said PLEA’s Darrell Kriplean. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s something I’ve never experienced in 28 years as a police officer. This year is something.”
Recently, the Phoenix police created an entire division to suppress gun violence. Ministry officials said homicide cases with firearms have increased by 45% this year compared to the same period last year.
The increase in gun crime is not unique to Phoenix, as similar increases are occurring in other parts of the country.