Shooting of 2 Phoenix officers is fifth ‘ambush-style’ shooting in the city this year

A monthly report by the National Fraternal Order of Police says Arizona was just behind Texas with the most officers shot in the line of duty in 2022.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 4:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The shooting on Sunday night of two Phoenix police officers marks the fifth ‘ambush-style’ shooting of officers in the department this year, according to figures compiled by Arizona’s Family.

Phoenix police say that the shooting happened near 26th Ave and Deer Valley after officers responded to reports of a shooting at the Days Inn around 8:45 p.m., just west of Interstate 17. Officers say the situation started when 24-year-old Isaiah Steven Williams, who was wearing full tactical gear, including a vest and a helmet, walked out of a motel and began firing his semi-automatic rifle randomly. At one point, investigators say, he tried to throw a Molotov cocktail at a business, but it did not catch fire.

According to a 2018 report by the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an ambush attack can be classified in one of two ways. The first is the traditional thought of an ambush, where a suspect lures police into a location and opens fire. But a more common type is what the report calls a “spontaneous ambush,” where the assailant makes the decision at the time of the officer’s approach and surprises them with an assault. Figures from the report showed between 1990-2012, 68 percent of ambush attacks were spontaneous.

Police say that happened to the two officers off 26th Avenue and Deer Valley. When they arrived on the scene, they were met with gunfire. The officers both received non-life threatening injuries, but it is a scene that has unfolded too many times for Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, who addresses the media after each incident.

In February, several officers were shot at during an ambush-style incident at a home in Phoenix. Five officers were shot, including four who were rescuing a baby placed outside the house, and four more were injured by shrapnel or ricocheting bullets.

The next month, police say officers were targeted while on duty. “It appears that officers were shot by someone hiding in the darkness, literally trying to pick our officers off,” Chief Williams said following the incident in March.

In April, she would again speak to reporters, addressing her officers being targeted again. “I’m angry, I’m tired, I’m frustrated,” Williams said following two of her officers being shot at a north Phoenix gas station. They were taking the report of domestic violence after a woman ran to a gas station in the area of Cave Creek and Beardsley. As officers arrived to speak with the woman, police said the suspect Nicholas Cody Cowan, opened fire on the woman and officers, striking one officer.

Phoenix officers would face ambush-style attacks on two other occasions, including Sunday night. “How many more officers have to be shot? How many more community members have to be killed before those in our community take a stand?” Chief Williams said Sunday night.

The number of ambush-style assaults on police officers has been rising across the country in recent years, doubling from 2020 to 2021. So far, there have been 46 ambush-style assaults on law enforcement as of July 31 figures by the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Andy Anderson is a retired assistant chief with the Phoenix Police Department. He believes a number of factors led to where we are today with violence against law enforcement. One of them is a negative view of law enforcement from the community. “This isn’t a law enforcement issue, this is a community issue, and the community has to step up and say, enough is enough,” Anderson said.

He also agreed that the ease of access to weapons enhances the problem. “I think it’s no doubt at all that the availability of firearms right now is playing a big role in what’s happening,” he said.

In 2016 Arizona’s Family Investigates used hidden cameras to show how easy it was for anyone to buy a gun on the street in just minutes. In the past month, Phoenix police have seized more than 700 guns and arrested more than 500 people on charges related to gun crimes. “I know Phoenix is working very hard on their new gun program, and they’ve taken a number of guns off the street over the last month or so. We have to do that nationwide,” Anderson said.

At the end of July, Arizona was just behind Texas with the most officers shot in the line of duty in 2022, according to a monthly report by the National Fraternal Order of Police.