Police: Suspect who killed officer should have been deported years ago

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX – Investigators looking into the shooting that left one Buckeye police officer dead and another seriously wounded released more information about the suspected triggerman Tuesday morning.

According to Brian Livingston of the Arizona Police Association, an organization that represents police officers throughout the state, investigators have developed information about the suspected shooter’s criminal history in California and pieced together his movements and actions once he came to Arizona.

Cesar Leon, who was shot and killed in the gun battle, held a green card, Livingston said. He was not a permanent resident of either California or Arizona.

“His background was not checked as far as his violation of his immigration status regarding his green cars status in the United States,” Livingston said. “He should have been deported back in 2004 and 2005 when his first criminal actions were found in California.”

Leon was sentenced to eight years in California, but he was paroled in 2009.

Livingston said investigators have confirmed that the driver of the car, who was wounded in the shootout and whose name has not been released, is an undocumented immigrant.

“He had assumed a false identification and was using a false Social Security number in order to gain employment,” Livingston explained.

The third person in the car was a co-worker of the driver and Leon.

Livingston said that for years, many law-enforcement officials have said there is a serious problem with illegal immigration in Arizona, including crimes and gang activity that are tied to the Mexican drug cartels.

“This [incident] is direct proof of that link,” Livingston said. “What we have always feared would come to Arizona indeed has arrived in Arizona.”

All of the information Livingston addressed Tuesday stems from a deadly officer-involved shooting that happened in the early morning hours on Sunday, May 1 at El Gran Mercado Swap Meet in southwest Phoenix. Two Buckeye police officers – Christopher Paz and Rolando Tirado -- were working an off-duty security job when a traffic stop escalated into something much worse.

Paz was released from the hospital Monday, a week and a day after that gun battle. Tirado, who was shot in the back of the head execution-style, was laid to rest on Friday.

Bank accounts have been established in the names of both officers. You can contribute to the Tirado Memorial Fund and/or the Paz Recovery Fund at any Wells Fargo location.