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911 Tapes of Ariz. Officers' Murders Show Need To Act Fast, Police Say

August 31, 2004
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911 Tapes of Ariz. Officers' Murders Show Need To Act Fast, Police Say

911 tapes show need to act fast, police say Recording reveals chaos at scene;

Listen to the Shooter's Call to 911

By David J. Cieslak and Emily Bittner, The Arizona Republic

Phoenix police officers Eric White, 30, and Jason Wolfe, 27 were killed Saturday night.

Moments before police kicked down his door and two officers were shot to death, a suspect holed up inside his north Phoenix apartment calmly told emergency dispatchers he was alone with a semiautomatic handgun and didn't want anyone to come inside.

"I guess this is my last few minutes on the planet, so I'm sorry. . . . I've been dealing with this for a year and half now. . . . It's time to be done with it," Douglas M. Tatar, 29, told a 911 dispatcher, according to audiotapes released Tuesday by the Phoenix Police Department.

Hearing a noise outside his apartment, Tatar said, "Don't open that door. . . . Who are these people outside my door?"

Within seconds, officers raided the apartment and exchanged a barrage of gunfire with Tatar. Killed were Officers Jason Wolfe, 27, and Eric White, 30. A third officer, Chris Parese, was injured in Saturday night's melee at the Northern Point Apartments, 1905 W. Las Palmaritas Drive.

Wolfe and White, both of whom were husbands and fathers, spent about four years on the force and worked out of a north-central Phoenix precinct.

Related links
The shooter's call to 911 *
Witness' call to 911 *
  • Expressions of sympathy
  • 2 officers merited praise
  • Multiple police slayings not uncommon
    Timeline of Saturday night's police shootout *
  • Guestbook for Eric White
  • Guestbook for Jason Wolfe
    Slideshow: Memorials at the scene

    * Windows Media Player or Real Player is required.

    Trouble with any of the audio/video links? Go here.

  • Police said Tuesday that the tapes support the decision to kick down Tatar's door instead of waiting for SWAT teams, saying they offer new evidence that officers may have believed an additional victim was inside.

    Police radio communications indicate a single shot was fired inside Tatar's apartment after officers arrived at the scene and before they attempted to enter the apartment. The gunfire took place around the same time Tatar called 911 to say he shot someone, police Cmdr. Kim Humphrey said.

    "Maybe the officers are thinking there's a shot fired in the apartment and he just called to say he shot somebody. Maybe he just shot somebody in the apartment? It's a possibility from what we heard on there," Humphrey said.

    The tapes indicate that dispatchers didn't relay a request from Tatar that no officers enter his apartment nor did they tell officers that he refused to come out.

    Additionally, another officer asked dispatchers whether a specialized police tactical team, the Rapid Deployment Unit, was needed at the scene. The dispatcher agrees, but no additional units were immediately sent to the apartment.

    Although Tatar told emergency dispatchers he was the only person in the apartment, a fact that was communicated to police at the scene, officers may not have trusted the gunman's account.

    "Do you believe him? Guess what? Suspects and bad guys lie all the time," Humphrey said Tuesday.

    Tatar was found dead by SWAT team members about two hours after the deadly gunbattle. He was alone in the apartment, and police said he shot himself.

    Officers rushed to the apartment complex after Tatar, a mentally disturbed man who worked as a driver for a courier service, shot another man during a dispute over a $100 bet. The wounded man, 25-year-old Side Williams, was treated at John C. Lincoln Hospital-North Mountain for a gunshot wound to the neck.

    Officers arrived at the apartment complex a few minutes after the 5:54 p.m. shooting because neighbors who saw the incident called 911.

    Tatar, who had retreated into his second-floor apartment, called 911 at about 6:03 p.m. to tell dispatchers he "just shot someone."

    He gave the dispatcher his name, phone number and told her he was holding a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.

    She asked him where in the apartment he was.

    "I'm not going to provide you with any information," Tatar responded.

    The dispatcher then asked him to put down his gun and talk to officers.

    "There's no way I'm walking outside of this building," Tatar said. "I can't go to jail. These people are drug dealers ... and I'm not going to get beat up in jail every day. That is not a current option."

    After Tatar told emergency operators he believed he was going to die, a dispatcher told officers Tatar likely was suicidal.

    But the moment that dispatchers relayed those details, the shooting began. The tapes do not indicate whether officers heard the information.

    As the officers lay dying in the apartment's doorway and the gunbattle continued, other officers rushed to their aid and summoned ambulances to the scene. An alarm can be heard blaring in the background.

    "Get back! . . . Stay down, stay down! . . . I can't get in there!" officers at the doorway yelled.

    "Officer down! We need (unintelligible) to Palmaritas now!" an unidentified officer shouted into his radio.

    "Is there a unit could advise who's down?" a dispatcher asked the officer.

    "Two officers down. Three officers down. Two next to the apartment. We've got one coming out by the front," the officer said.

    Wolfe was shot in the head, while White suffered a fatal wound to a portion of his upper body not protected by his bulletproof vest.

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