State Route 51 in central Phoenix reopened after man with gun arrested

State Route 51 is back opened after police took a man who reportedly had a gun inside his car and was stopped on the freeway near McDowell Road in Phoenix.
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 6:25 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 8:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A major freeway in central Phoenix was reopened after it was closed for more than an hour because an armed man was asleep in his car in the middle of traffic, the Department of Public Safety said. According to DPS Sgt. Eric Andrews, drivers started calling 911, saying they saw a man slumped over inside his red Mercedes Benz that was stopped in one of the middle northbound lanes of state Route 51 just north of McDowell Road. They said the man, later identified as D’Aundre Terrell Willis, wasn’t moving and had his foot on the brake.

When troopers arrived, Andrews said Willis was passed out but wasn’t responding to their commands, and then troopers spotted an AK-style pistol in the passenger seat loaded with a magazine. The trooper said he could smell marijuana coming from the car, even with the windows rolled up. They backed off and called additional law enforcement support, including Phoenix Police Department’s Special Assignment Unit. DPS also shut down both sides of the freeway. Drivers heading north had to exit at McDowell Road, while drivers heading south had to get off at Thomas Road.

DPS used less-lethal methods to get Willis out of the car. Andrews said he was moving, but he wasn’t obeying commands for him to get out of the car. Phoenix’s Special Assignment Unit then successfully executed a plan to bring Willis into custody. Andrews didn’t go into detail about what action those officers took. Willis eventually woke up and was peacefully taken into custody.

According to court documents, troopers could smell marijuana on Willis and he had a pot cigarette behind his ear. Investigators said he later admitted to drinking. Willis was taken to the hospital to be checked out. He was booked into jail on aggravated DUI, possessing a weapon by a prohibited prossessor and obstructing a highway. No one was hurt. The freeway reopened just after 7:30 p.m.

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