Deputy fighting for life after shooting; suspect killed


by Catherine Holland

Video report by Steve Ryan

Posted on January 8, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 10 at 1:45 PM

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A Maricopa County sheriff's deputy is fighting for his life and a suspect is dead after an overnight shootout in a Peoria parking lot.

It happened just after midnight at 83rd Avenue and Deer Valley Road.

According to MCSO, it started at about 11 p.m. Monday with a call from a woman who was concerned about her ex-boyfriend. She reportedly told deputies that he was suicidal and armed with a gun.

Deputy Ruben Garcia (pictured above) was able to find the man, who has been identified as Donald Miller Sr., 54, of Peoria. The pair wound up in the Valero parking lot where Garcia approached the suspect's Ford pickup. Witnesses said they saw Miller shoot the deputy as he approached the truck.

"At some point, witnesses say several shots were fired and our deputy was lying on the ground," MCSO spokesman Chris Hegstrom explained.

Garcia reportedly was hit several times and was air-lifted to John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital. At last check, he was critical but stable condition in the intensive-care unit and had not yet been taken into surgery.

After the shooting, the suspect fled in his pickup truck, heading north on 83rd Avenue.

Peoria police quickly caught up with him and attempted to stop him less than a mile from where the deputy was shot. He veered off the road and into the desert.

Police say the suspect fired at them. They returned fire. Miller was found dead in his vehicle, but it's not clear yet if officers shot him or if he shot himself.

Garcia is a 29-year veteran of the office. Sheriff Joe Arpaio described him as as "old-school" and "tough."

"We're going to do everything we can to take care of the family," he said. "I have confidence in the medical professionals here that they'll do everything they can to save his life."

"He's just a good, hard-working man who loves his job. He's been doing it for so long," said Reyna McDonald, a member of Garcia's family.

Garcia is married and has three children -- two sons and a daughter.

Law enforcement outgunned?

"It seems like there's a war against our law-enforcement officers," Arpaio said from outside John C. Lincoln Hospital Tuesday morning. "I did say just recently -- in fact on national television just last night before this situation occurred -- that I'm going to arm all my deputies with automatic and semi-automatic weapons. I want them to get home safe at night and we're going to do everything we can to protect our deputy sheriffs."

This is the fifth officer-involved shooting in the Valley in three days and it falls on the second anniversary of the massacre in Tucson in which six people were killed and 13 more, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were wounded.

It's also the first anniversary of another MCSO deputy's death. Deputy William Coleman was gunned down at an Anthem strip mall by a man with an assault rifle. The suspect was shot and killed by other deputies.

Of the five shootings in the past three days, officers were wounded in two.