Police shoot, kill armed man who opened fire in Phoenix neighborhood

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jill Galus

Posted on September 2, 2014 at 6:35 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 5 at 7:09 AM

Map: 15th Avenue and Bethany Home Road

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PHOENIX -- Police shot and killed a man who went on a shooting spree in a Valley neighborhood and even took aim at the Phoenix Police Department's helicopter.

It happened in the area of 15th Avenue just north of Bethany Home Road shortly before 10:30 p.m. Monday. It started with two police officers responding to several calls of "unknown trouble."

When those officers arrived in the neighborhood, they heard what they thought they thought might be fireworks. As they approached a home one street over to investigate, bullets started flying.

"The officers immediately took cover behind a vehicle in the driveway of the home and were able to locate the shooter, via flashlight, standing on the porch of a home just north of them and holding a rifle," according to Officers James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department. "The suspect fired more rounds toward the officers as they called for backup."

Officers did not know it at the time, but the rifle Richard Ray Aceves, 55, was holding was not his only weapon.

Holmes said the suspect fired at the police helicopter as it circled the area, spotlight shining on the man's home. The pilot was forced to land a few streets from the scene to check the chopper  for bullet strikes. None was found.

According to police, Aceves fired between 10 and 20 shots before two officers who had taken position on the roof of a nearby home shot and killed him.

"Where you're talking about 12 to 15, and maybe even more, shots fired specifically at police officers ... that's not only bizarre behavior, it goes beyond that," Holmes said.

Investigators recovered a total of five weapons -- three rifles and two handguns -- all of which were loaded and within Aceves' reach.

At this point, detectives do not know what precipitated Aceves' actions.

"We don't know what he was thinking. We don't know what was going on with him," Holmes said. "One thing is certain: When a person is on a porch like that, and he's got a weapon and he's firing it already, all of those other weapons that he has in support, he's got a plan for."

Police have not released any information about Aceves, but they are determined to figure out why he was so well armed and why he was firing at anything that moved.

"We're going to look at everything from history with law enforcement, history of neighbors calling because of his behavior. We're going to look at maybe mental health issues. We're going to look to see if he's a vet. We're going to try to find something that explains why he did what he did last night."

No other injuries were reported.

"There's no other way to put it except that we got lucky," Holmes said.

While detectives do not know what caused Aceves to open fire, Holmes said he believes Aceves knew exactly what he was doing.

"I really and truly believe, based on everything that happened, at least when he started firing that weapon, his intent was to fire at our police officers," Holmes said. "The shots that he may have fired before we got here, we can't explain those. But to deliberately shoot at the officers, he deliberately shot at the aircraft -- we know that he did that. We just don't know why."

Detectives were no closer to an answer more than 24 hours after the incident.

"We have yet to find a motive for this incident," Holmes said in an email to media outlets Wednesday morning. "The only contact the suspect had with our department is as a victim or witness, and there is no record of police response to his home."

The two officers who shot the suspect are on paid administrative leave. That is standard procedure any time an officer fires his or her service weapon.

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