Today, in an attempt to arrest an ex-convict for an outstanding warrant, two Phoenix undercover police detectives were shot.
Authorities described the scene as grim, John Hobbs, 43, while laying on the ground bleeding, managed to return fire – shooting the suspect who shot his partner.
Hobbs, who had 21 years with the Phoenix Police Department, died later from his wounds. His partner, a nine-year veteran of the force, whose name authorities have not revealed, is a 44-year-old officer who remains hospitalized and in stable condition.
“Today is a tragic reminder that our officers risk their lives for us every single day,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
William Thornton, 28, was the suspect who initiated the gunfire on Monday, costing him his life after Hobbs returned fire. He was just released from prison on Jan 9 for drugs and resisting arrest, and had recently violated probation, leading to the warrant for his arrest.
Thornton, in addition to the warrant, was a key suspect in an attempted murder case of a man shot in the chest on Feb 25th, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia said.
“The suspect immediately opened fire on our officers,” Garcia said, noting the shooting highlights the dangers detectives encounter when tracking fugitives who don’t want to go back to prison. “They’ll do everything they can do to get away, including a reckless abandon for human life and that’s what we saw yesterday.”
Garcia said the undercover detectives were conducting surveillance outside a north Phoenix business that Thornton was known to frequent. When Thornton arrived at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, Garcia said he apparently noticed the officers and tried to flee in a vehicle, recklessly causing a three-car collision at an intersection nearby.
After the car crash, Thornton tried to run from the scene and that was when the gunfire with the detectives commenced. Hobbs was shot first, but immediately began returning fire while lying on the pavement, striking the suspect multiple times. It wasn’t immediately clear if Hobbs fired the fatal shots that killed Thornton.
The detectives hadn’t put on their bulletproof vests.
“They didn’t have time” to put them on, Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said while commending Hobbs’ action after being shot.
“Heroic, absolutely heroic,” Martos added. “We’re talking about an officer who was shot and didn’t give up the fight.”
Hobbs leaves behind a wife and three young children.
Image via NDN