Shootout with officers puts suspected car thief in hospital

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Tess Rafols

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 18 at 3:45 PM

Map: Empire and Gary
Circle Cross Ranch K8 School

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SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- A suspected car thief is in the hospital after a shootout with Department of Public Safety officers Thursday morning.

It happened shortly after 7 a.m. in the parking lot of a park in the area of Empire Boulevard and Gary Road near Circle Cross Ranch K8 School in San Tan Valley.

DPS spokesman Bart Graves said the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force, which is supervised by DPS, had a known suspect under surveillance. Investigators had information that this suspect, who was driving a blue Ford pickup truck, was armed and dangerous.

Refusing to pull over for officers, the driver tried to escape. The situation ended in a shootout by the park.

"The suspect was shot and wounded," Graves said. "He was flown to a local hospital."

Aerial video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed quite a bit of medical debris on the ground near the stolen pickup, as well as several bullet holes in the passenger-side window.

The suspect's name has not been released and his condition was not immediately available.

DPS said at least six or seven shots were fired.

No officers were injured.

It's not clear who fired first and no details about this operation were immediately available.

"In most of these cases, there's a long investigation that culminates in an arrest," Graves explained. "Probably in this case, that will be the situation."

Investigators expected to be on the scene for quite some time.

Michael Ranney, who lives next door to the park and heard everything, said children cross the park every day on their way to school. The shootout happened a little less than an hour before classes start at Circle Cross Ranch, which is not on spring break until next week.

"Thank God there were no kids," Ranney said. "It was too early for them to be out yet."

While DPS oversees the state's vehicle theft task force, several Valley agencies are part of it. Also known as RATTLER (Regional Auto Theft Team Law Enforcement Response), the task force was established in January 1997. According to DPS, RATTLER recovered more than 30,300 vehicles valued at more than $323 million between 1997 and 2008.

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