Unmarked MCSO vehicle involved in deadly collision

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by Natalie Brand

Bio | Email | Follow: @NatalieBrand

azfamily.com

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 9:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 19 at 12:12 PM

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- An unmarked Chevrolet SUV belonging to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and driven by an on-duty deputy collided with another vehicle Monday afternoon.

It happened just after 1 p.m. on 59th Avenue near Northern Avenue.

Police said the deputy was traveling northbound on 59th Avenue in the center lane when the driver of a silver-colored Nissan pulled out in front of the deputy while making a left turn. 

The driver of the Nissan, 63-year-old John Edward Harding, has died. He was a Glendale resident.

"I want to see what happened, how it happened and why it happened," said Miguel Canales, who is related to Harding through marriage.

"He was a great person, a genuine person," Canales said. "One hell of a guy."

Canales said Harding was an Army veteran who had recently been enjoying his retirement.

The male deputy, Sean Pearce, was transported to a local hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. 

Pearce is a 20-year veteran with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the son of former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce.

A spokesman said the deputy was on duty following up on a tip about a wanted felony suspect when the crash occurred. It's not known whether he was traveling within the speed limit, but witnesses told police they did not see lights or sirens on before the crash.

"I heard an explosion, sounded like a bomb going off," Chris Lazau told 3TV. He called 911 after hearing it from a parking lot alongside 59th Avenue.

Lazau said the deputy involved, as well as workers of a nearby clinic, tried to administer first aid to the other driver before he was taken to the hospital.

MCSO said Pearce is "absolutely distraught" following the crash. He's currently on leave while the investigation continues.

MCSO will determine whether proper policy was followed once the Glendale police investigation is complete.

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