A young man in Phoenix, Arizona managed to casually elude authorities yesterday. He was there and gone before police appeared on the scene, but everyone thought he was in the bathroom.
The man may not have even realized he was a suspect. There’s a big chance he didn’t even do anything wrong. There weren’t any shots fired and nobody was hurt in any way. Police are still looking for him though. A motorist turned him in as a possible “active shooter” about to explode into a terrorist rage. The “gun” he was waving could turn out to have been a water bottle or a cell phone.
As heavy traffic flowed through the scorching heat of a late Phoenix afternoon, a driver passing through the intersection of 24th Street and Thomas Road thought he saw something suspicious.
Because you can’t be too careful these days, he called 911. None of the other drivers called it in. That doesn’t mean that nobody else saw a gun being waved. In Phoenix, it’s fairly typical to ignore things like that, and hope it doesn’t affect you personally.
The open carry of guns is totally legal in Arizona and isn’t unusual at all. Waving one around is a different story and that is what police responded to. To protect the safety of the public is the top priority, and Phoenix Police deserve a pat on the back for such a prompt and professional response. Too bad they let the suspect walk right past them.
The driver told police that the suspect was crossing the street and “pointed what appeared to be a gun” at him. The driver slowed down and dialed 911, alerting police that the man was entering the Carl’s Junior. That was around 4:30 p.m., per reports.
Phoenix police Lt. Keith Doherty told reporters, “a man crossed the street at 24th Street and Thomas Road. While he was crossing, a vehicle drove by him and the man pointed what the driver believed to be a handgun at the car. This prompted the 28-year-old driver to slow down and watch the man walk into the Carl’s Jr.”
Within minutes, officers were on the scene. Employees and customers told them the man was in the bathroom, so they had a barricade situation on their hands. They tried to talk to the man through the door but he wasn’t answering.
“Once the officers were able to get the staff out of the restaurant as well as the customers, we stood by for some of our additional units and tactical units to show up,” Doherty added.
Police quickly evacuated the restaurant and shortly after 5 p.m. Sergeant Maggie Cox declared “this is an active tactical scene.” While they were busy trying to engage the suspect in conversation, some of the officers started reviewing the store’s surveillance footage. That’s when they found out he left before they got there.
Lt. Doherty explains, “We were able to access the store’s internal cameras and see the subject actually went inside, sat down for a couple of seconds and, right before we showed up on scene, fled the facility.” It took them an hour to figure that out. The scene was cleared just after 6 p.m., the report notes.
According to Sgt. Cox, “The suspect was not located in the business and remains outstanding at this time.” He is described as “a man between 20 and 25 years old and was wearing a white baseball cap and a white shirt.”
The father of one of the workers was especially worried because he works near Desert Sky Mall. “I was really scared because my daughter and her life, I have two kids, I’ve got to protect them.” insists Armando Burciaga. The day before, there were reports of shots fired which caused a panic at the mall. It turned out to be just an ordinary “smash and grab” jewelry store robbery.
“I do work right next to Desert Sky Mall. I saw what happened there, personally had people walk into my shop and all that. And just to see it twice back-to-back was kind of hard.”
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His daughter, Jessica Burciaga, saw the suspect. “I was cleaning the tables, and I was getting ready to clock out. He was just sitting in the back, and then out of nowhere the cops came. I’m glad nothing happened to the people eating. They were high schoolers coming out of school and eating.”
Police say they’re analyzing the security footage for clues to the suspect’s identity and they aren’t working it as a shooting because it wasn’t one. They are calling it “pedestrian-vehicle road rage.”
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