AZPOST: Officer was drinking before fatal shootout

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A shootout between Phoenix police and some burglary suspects back in March is coming back into focus now that we know one of the officers who pulled the trigger may have been intoxicated. 

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board voted this week to start investigating the case. Though the police department justifies the officer's actions in engaging fire, what he did prior is cause for concern. 

Surveillance video from Hurricane Bay nightclub in Phoenix in the early hours of March 30 showed 20-year veteran police officer Gary Schonfelder tossing back several drinks while working off-duty security.
He stayed late to escort the manager to deposit his cash, but in the meantime, helped himself to whiskey and soda.
While Schonfelder told investigators he only had two drinks, a report from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board said he consumed seven drinks between 2 and 4 in the morning. 

"He had taken off his uniform, taken off his gun belt, but at that time, he consumed alcohol," said Sergeant Tommy Thompson with the Phoenix Police Department. "Technically, he was still working for that business."

The report said Schonfelder saw some men trying to steal something out of the back of his personal truck. The suspects pointed their weapons toward him, ignored his commands, and Schonfelder fired.

"There were at least two guns used to fire at officers, he fired at them," Thompson said. "So this was not just a shooting, this was a gunfight."

Schonfelder hit two suspects, and one of them died at the scene. Officers who responded noticed Schonfelder smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. The report said a forensic scientist estimates at the time of the shooting, Schonfelder's blood alcohol content could have been anywhere from 0.08 percent to 0.17 percent. He retired before the investigation was complete. 

"We believe he would have been terminated had he not resigned before that," Thompson said.

CBS 5 News tried to contact Schonfelder but was unable to. Phoenix police tell us the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to press charges. 

The family of the man who died in that shootout has notified the city of their plans to sue. 

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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