PHOENIX – It has been one year since Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Drenth was found shot to death, apparently by his own shotgun, on the ground outside his vehicle in a parking lot near the Capitol. Despite the extensive investigation, there still is no ruling on whether Drenth’s death was a suicide of a homicide and police continue to work the case. But there are still more questions than answers.
Family, friends and police officers will gather Tuesday evening at the site of the shooting near 18th Avenue and Jackson Street for a memorial to remember Drenth.
On Oct. 18, 2010, Capitol police discovered Drenth’s body, his shotgun on his chest with the muzzle pointed at his chin. His service weapon had been tossed away, landing some 40 feet from where Drenth lay on the ground on the passenger side of his patrol vehicle. Both the driver and passenger doors were open. There was nobody else around.
Since Drenth’s mysterious death, detectives have worked endlessly to try and determined exactly what happened that night, but they haven’t been able to do it. There are simply too many things that don’t add up.
As they worked to determine exactly who was at the scene and why, investigators took hundreds of DNA swabs. The idea was to exclude officers and police personnel who were part of the investigation. When all was said and done, detectives were left with some DNA that didn’t match anybody who was known to be at the scene. That means there was at least one person at the scene for whom police cannot account. Investigators have not been able to identify that DNA match.
There is also a set of unknown footprints. Police don’t know if those prints belong to the person who left the unknown DNA or if they belong to a second person.
Investigators still do not know why Drenth was in the parking lot where he died, but they do know he arrived less than 30 minutes before his body was discovered.
Drenth, a 12-year- veteran of the force, was one of several officers facing indictment for theft and fraud in connection with an off-duty work scheme. It’s not clear if his death was connected to that.
The Phoenix Police Department has released few details about its in-depth investigation.
While at first look the scene might have looked like a suicide, those who knew Drenth, who was 35, say he would not have killed himself.
At a news conference in May, Lt. Joe Knott said investigators might never know what happened the night Drenth died.