Phoenix police identify gunman who killed 1 officer, wounded a second

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by The Associated Press and azfamily.com

3TV team coverage

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 5:18 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 4 at 9:51 PM

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PHOENIX -- A Phoenix police officer was out of surgery and recovering in an intensive-care unit after being critically wounded by a fugitive in a shootout that left a fellow officer and the suspect dead, authorities said.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia identified the suspect Tuesday morning as William Thornton, 28, saying he had been out of prison for less than two months and was a suspect in an attempted homicide in which he allegedly walked up to a person and shot him point-blank in the chest.

"This is a violent felony offender," Garcia said.

The injured officer was in critical but stable condition Tuesday. Police are not releasing his name at this time but did say that he is 44 years old and has been with the department for nine years.

Detective John Hobbs, a 21-year veteran and a member of the Police Department's fugitive apprehension team, died of his wounds at a hospital a few hours after the shooting at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Garcia said.

"It is obvious that we lost a spectacular, spectacular police officer yesterday," Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in a police briefing Tuesday morning.

Garcia and Stanton asked for prayers for the families of both officers. The police chief thanked the community for all the support the department has received.

Hobbs, 43, is survived by a wife and three children, ages 10, 8 and 6.

Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos described Hobbs as a "stand-up guy" and said he was loved by everyone in the department.

Hobbs and his partner, as well as a third detective, were attempting to locate Thornton, who was wanted on a felony arrest warrant. They spotted him driving a car in the area of 41st Avenue and Camelback Road at about 3 p.m. on Monday. It is believed that Thornton realized he was under surveillance and fled without getting out of his vehicle.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson said the detectives followed Thornton to 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road where he collided with another vehicle. He got out of his car and fled on foot. As Hobbs and his partner pulled up and started to get out of their vehicle, Thornton began to fire at them with a handgun.

Though mortally wounded, Hobbs returned fire and shot Thornton numerous times.

"We're talking about an officer who gets shot and doesn't give up the fight," Martos said. "He is proned out, returns fire, hits our suspect multiple times. He didn't give up."

The third detective, who approached from a different direction in an attempt to cut off the suspect, saw Thornton shooting at the other detectives and fired at him.

Thornton was killed during the gunbattle.

"This went from a surveillance to a felony arrest very quickly," Garcia said.

Martos said the officers were not wearing bullet-proof vests.

"They didn't have time," Martos said. "It was too dynamic, too quick to occur."

"It was obvious that the guy was out of control," said Wayne Monton, who owns a nearby business and witnessed the shooting. "After the crash and the shooting, everybody just took off running. It was chaos."

An 83-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man suffered minor injuries in the car crash that closed an intersection for several hours as authorities gathered evidence.

Nick Cusson, the manager of a restaurant in a shopping center near the intersection, said he heard more than a dozen gunshots a few minutes after arriving at work.

"The next thing you know, the whole parking lot is scattered with people," Cusson said. "Then within about 30 seconds, we see all these cops driving up."

Cusson said he had noticed several unmarked police cars parked nearby just before the shooting but didn't think much of it.

"Then I guess there was a shootout," he said. "We were all looking out the window. We were kind of curious. We weren't sure they were gunshots at first."

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