Officers ordered to submit DNA in Drenth death investigation

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on November 24, 2010 at 7:28 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 24 at 10:53 AM

PHOENIX -- More than two dozen Phoenix police officers have been ordered by the court to submit DNA samples in connection with the shooting death of one of their own, linking the death investigation to an alleged off-duty work scam that has rocked the department.

Sgt. Sean Drenth was found shot to death outside his police cruiser on Oct. 18. His death has remained a mystery.

Now, for the first time, investigators are talking about specific scenarios, including the possibility that Drenth, who was killed with his own shotgun, was murdered and the scene was set up to make his death look like a suicide. Investigators also say it's possible that Drenth might have actually killed himself.

Drenth was one of those implicated when news of the alleged off-duty work scam first broke on Nov. 18. He reportedly was about to be indicted for theft and fraud.

At a news conference Tuesday, detectives said they are trying to determine the source of some evidence found at the scene of Drenth's death.

Investigators said the officers who will be submitting DNA are considered leads in the case -- not suspects.

"Anyone who could have been involved or have knowledge of a possible crime could be a lead," said Paul Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant.

The police union is calling the DNA testing unprecedented, but the department says it is necessary.

Penzone says the move is unusual, but understandable given the circumstances.

"I think that what the police department is doing is extremely responsible," he said. "What is going on now is a lot of speculation. You have to either prove or disprove those things for the sanity not only of the officers who could be leads, but also for the public at large."

"I've got almost three decades with the police department and I've never seen anything like this," said Officer Joe Cure of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA). "There certainly is an uproar with the individuals who have been subjected to the court order."

Investigators have not said anything specific about the evidence in question, but they are hoping the DNA samples will shed some light on where -- or who -- it came from.

The officers were first asked to submit DNA samples voluntarily, but several refused, which is why the police department got the court order.

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