Suspected drunk driver hits, kills Chandler motorcycle officer

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- A suspected drunk driver hit and killed a Chandler police motorcycle officer early Friday morning.

The crash occurred shortly after 12:30 a.m. at the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Pennington Drive, just east of Dobson Road, according to Detective Seth Tyler of the Chandler Police Department.

Officer David Payne was on duty and stopped at a traffic light when the driver of a vehicle rear-ended him, according to Chandler Police Sgt. Joseph Favazzo. The impact catapulted Payne's motorcycle through the intersection and quite some distance down the street.

Paramedics rushed Payne to a local hospital. Doctors pronounced him dead less than 30 minutes after the crash.

Police identified the driver that hit Payne as Brian Yazzie. They say he fled but stopped about half a mile from the scene and was taken into custody. Investigators believe Yazzie was drunk, Tyler said.

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan said Yazzie has a history of drunk driving and "other offenses."

Favazzo said Yazzie's driver license has been suspended since 2010.

Aerial video from Chopper 3 showed the extensive front-end damage to Yazzie's car. Police said there was an 11-month-old child in that car at the time of the crash. That child was not hurt.

Yazzie, 31, is facing one count each of manslaughter and hit and run. He also will be booked on suspicion of endangerment because of the child in his vehicle.

Payne, 37, was a member of Chandler's DUI Traffic Unit and a seven-year veteran of the department.

Officers on the scene said Payne was highly respected within the department and loved serving his community.

"This is what Officer Payne loved to do," Favazzo said. "He was a motor officer through and through. He wanted to be on that motorcycle. He wanted to be on the night shift. He wanted to enforce DUI and impairment cases. That's what he was out here doing ...."

Officers spent nearly eight hours scouring the scene collecting evidence and conducting the on-scene portion of their investigation.

"We have to sometimes put our emotions a little bit to the side and focus on the job. That's what you see happening in that intersection behind us," Favazzo said as officers worked the scene behind him. "You see officers that have put their emotions aside, who are focusing on doing their job.  They're looking for justice for their friend, for their colleague. There will be a time that they will be able to reflect and have time to mourn."

This week has already been a difficult one for the Chandler Police Department.

Payne is the second Chandler officer to die in a traffic wreck this week. Bryant Holmes, 34, was killed Tuesday afternoon in a crash while he was headed to work.

Payne also is the second Chandler officer to lose his life at the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Pennington Drive. On June 12, 2002, Officer Rob Nielsen was responding to a car crash when a turning vehicle hit his patrol car. The impact caused Nielsen's vehicle to slam into a traffic signal. The fuel tank ruptured, and his car burst into flames.
(Chandler Police Department Fallen Officers Memorial)

Chandler Boulevard was closed in both directions from Dobson Road to Arrowhead Drive, and Pennington Drive was closed in both directions at the intersection. Police reopened those streets shortly after 8 a.m.

Anyone interested in making financial contributions to the family of Officer David Payne may do so at any branch office of Arizona Bank & Trust.

Account #9361089137
Family Support Group, Inc.
Fallen Officer Fund