Ex-instructor gives insight into federal gun range in Phoenix after deadly IRS shooting

Keith Tolhurst, a retired FBI firearms instructor, ran the Phoenix firing range where the shooting happened for over 10 years.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 5:58 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Internal Revenue Services Criminal Investigation says Special Agent Patrick Bauer was shot and killed during routine training at a federal firing range in Phoenix on Thursday. The IRS CI says another agent accidentally shot Special Agent Bauer before noon at the range just south of Anthem.

They said the 47-year-old is a longtime Arizona resident and was a Master Sgt. in the Arizona Air National Guard. “It is with great sorrow we learn about the passing of one of our own, MSgt (Ret.) Patrick Bauer. MSgt Bauer was a valued member of the Arizona Air National Guard, serving with the 161st Air Refueling Wing Security Forces Squadron. Over his more than 20 years of service, he completed multiple state missions and overseas deployments.”

“Our hearts go out to MSgt Bauer’s family, friends and all those who had the privilege to work with him. His service to the state and nation will forever be remembered,” said Maj. Gen. Kerry L. Muehlenbeck, Arizona National Guard Adjutant General.

We spoke with a former FBI firearms instructor who’s trained people at the range for 24 years. Keith Tolhurst also ran the firing range where this shooting happened for nearly 11 years. “There’s not a lot of special agents out there. Everybody is feeling the tragedy today,” Tolhurst said. “It’s a sad thing for everybody.”

Phoenix police officers and firefighters paid respects on Thursday evening to a fallen IRS killed at a federal shooting range in north Phoenix.

Tolhurst said there have been mistakes that he’s seen in all his years training people to shoot, but this is the first time it became deadly. “If I had 30 people at the range and they were there all day and one round went off the way it shouldn’t have, everybody’s going to know about that it shouldn’t have happened, and everybody’s going to be on edge. Accidents like this are either human error or mechanical error. That’s it. Something went wrong with the gun or somebody did something that wasn’t the way they were supposed to act with a gun.”

The IRS says special agents train at the shooting range twice a year. Tolhurst says they need to requalify and keep up with their skills to safely carry a gun in public. He says the federal range is similar to a public one. People stand on the line side by side and fire out and away from others.

Tolhurst says the IRS typically has smaller groups of seven or fewer people. They always have an instructor to monitor safety. “When you start thinking about how it could happen, how could this possibly happen if everything is being done the way it’s supposed to be done, it’s hard to visualize,” Tolhurst said.

On Thursday evening, law enforcement lined up for a procession as Bauer’s body was brought from the hospital to the medical examiner’s office in downtown Phoenix. The IRS says Bauer is survived by his wife and four children. They did not say who shot Bauer or why. The FBI is leading the investigation.

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