By David J. Cieslak and Holly Johnson, Arizona Republic
Still stunned by the shooting deaths of two fellow officers, police
on Sunday searched for answers about the decision to raid a north
Phoenix apartment where a gunman ambushed them.
continued to piece together details of Saturday night's gunbattle
that killed Officers Jason Wolfe, 27, and Eric White, 30. Authorities
believe Wolfe died from a gunshot wound to the head, while White was
fatally shot in an area of his torso unprotected by his bulletproof
vest. Both men were married and fathers of small
"Last night was one of the worst nights in our
department's history," Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said at a
news conference Sunday. "What we're here for is to provide the help
and security that the community needs. Unfortunately, in this tragic
incident, these officers paid the ultimate price in living up to that
Police believe Wolfe and White were among eight
officers who decided to force their way into the apartment where
Douglas M. Tatar, 29, was holed up with a semiautomatic handgun.
But top police officials on Sunday could not explain why the
officers chose to kick down Tatar's door instead of attempting
negotiations or waiting for the highly trained Special Assignments
Unit to arrive.
"It's a situation where you're damned if you
do and you're damned if you don't," said Phoenix police Cmdr. Dave
Thomas, head of the department's Squaw Peak precinct where Wolfe and
White were based. "Officers try to process all of the information in
a very short time span, and they do the best they can."
is believed to have fired nine to 10 times at police, including a
handful of shots that targeted officers who attempted to pull Wolfe
and White to safety. Police returned fire with about 20 shots through
Tatar's front door and a window, said Phoenix police Cmdr. Kim
Humphrey, a department spokesman.
"Certainly the fact is they
felt there was an immediacy to this," he said. "They used typical,
tactical responses by having a number of officers in the area and
approaching the apartment, and unable to get any kind of response,
they kicked in the door."
Tatar is accused of shooting
25-year-old Side Williams during an argument, prompting the initial
call to authorities. Williams, who was in the apartment complex's
courtyard when Tatar shot him from a second-story balcony, remains
hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the neck. Police believe Tatar
called 911 after he shot Williams, but details of that call were not
Tatar was found dead when SWAT teams raided his
apartment at 8:20 p.m., about two hours after the shootout with
police. Investigators have yet to determine whether Tatar fatally
shot himself or was killed by officers.
Phoenix police Officer
Chris Parese, 26, also was shot by Tatar during the siege at the
Northern Point Apartments, near Northern and 19th avenues. Parese was
treated for a gunshot wound to his left hip and released from a
Also Saturday, another police officer and a man were
injured in a car wreck near the apartment complex as the officer
raced to the scene.
Justin Adams, 27, remained hospitalized
late Sunday in serious condition. The officer, whose name could not
be determined, was treated at a hospital and released.
and White both were four-year veterans of the force who "worked
together and played together," Thomas said.
"They all had
serial numbers within a few digits of each other. They'd known each
other since they came on the Police Department. They'd gone through
the academy together."
The corridors of the Squaw Peak
precinct were hushed Sunday as officers began and ended their shifts,
often pausing for an embrace with a passing, grieving comrade.
"The precinct house itself is very quiet," Thomas said. "How
people look at each other says a lot more than what they
Officers are trying to attend to the day-to-day matters
of police work on a day unlike many in the precinct have ever seen,
responding to routine calls and pushing paperwork. But the young
officers' deaths hang in the air, a silent and constant reminder of
two fallen brothers.
"I've been doing this for 36 years, and
we really are a family," Thomas said. "We are a band of brothers and
sisters that utterly have to rely on each other when something like
Sergeants, lieutenants and officers at the scene
described by many as "horrific" are haunted by what they saw, Thomas
"They're wounded emotionally," he said. "They were
there. This is very, very tough. It may be one of the hardest things
we've had to deal with in years. But we'll survive, and we're going
to take care of our own."
The Police Department's
critical-incidents stress management team poured into the precinct
throughout the weekend to assist officers on duty. Phoenix Mayor Phil
Gordon also was on hand to talk with shaken
Ministers consoled the officers' stricken family
members Saturday night at John C. Lincoln Hospital and Banner Good
Samaritan Medical Center, said Jake Jacobsen, president of the
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. A clergyman also was called out
to the police radio room, where dispatchers struggled to reconcile
what they had heard.
Shortly after midnight, an assistant
chief came to both hospitals and privately briefed officers and
"We're trying to leave no stone unturned here,"
Jacobsen said. "If we have information, we'll give it out, and the
investigation will be ongoing."
The union will hold a
closed-door debriefing for officers Tuesday or
"When these tragedies strike, it opens up a real
network of family-type support," Jacobsen said.
are the first in the Squaw Peak precinct since 1999, when Officer
Mark Atkinson was fatally wounded while chasing three drug suspects.
Saturday's killings mark the 26th and 27th line-of-duty deaths in the
Thomas remembered those deaths as he
spent an unusually quiet Sunday afternoon in his precinct office,
stricken with grief but determined to take care of the officers who
He worries for the slain officers' families,
and he worries for the officers affected by what they saw
"There are those other officers, those lieutenants
and sergeants and officers who witnessed this tragedy and
participated in stopping it," Thomas said. "They're also very wounded
Phoenix police officers were grieving
Sunday after two colleagues were killed in a shootout at an apartment
Officers Jason Wolfe, 27, and Eric White, 30, were
killed in the incident Saturday night. Both were four-year veterans
who were married and had children.
Another officer wounded
during the shootout was released late Saturday from an area hospital.
Officer Chris Parese, 26, was treated for an arm injury, authorities
"Last night was one of the worst nights in our
department's history," police Chief Jack Harris said
Investigators were still trying to piece together the
events from the shootout. Authorities believe 29-year-old Douglas
Tatar shot at officers with a semiautomatic handgun.
found dead in an apartment after a two-hour standoff with
Officers were responding to reports of a shooting at
the complex on Saturday evening when they found Side Williams, 25,
shot in the courtyard, said police spokesman Kim
Williams, who apparently had an argument with Tatar
before the shooting, was in serious condition Sunday.
evacuated the area on Saturday, then kicked down a door, which they
believed the suspect was behind. A man began shooting at the
officers, firing at least nine times, Humphrey said.
White were killed and Parese was struck.
"The results were
obviously very tragic," Humphrey said.
Other officers returned
fire and the suspect retreated into the apartment, Humphrey
A standoff ensued, ending when a tactical team used tear
gas and entered the home.
Inside, officers found Tatar dead
from a gunshot wound, Humphrey said. It's unclear whether he was
killed by police or whether he shot himself.
behind a wife and one child. White leaves behind a wife and two
"For two officers, tomorrow will never come,"
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said Sunday. "This is hard for all of us to
Officer Cedric Tillman was involved in a car
accident as he responded to the shooting. Tillman was transported to
a hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Sunday.