02/04/2010

New suspect details in slain Ariz. officer's death

Lt. Eric Shuhandler was shot in the head during a traffic stop

Associated Press

PHOENIX — As family, friends and hundreds of Arizona police officers mourned a Gilbert lieutenant who was gunned down during a traffic stop, a court document released Wednesday paints the suspect in his killing as violent and increasingly distrustful of police.

Lt. Eric Shuhandler, 42, was shot in the head Thursday night after he pulled over two men for having a partially covered license plate, police said. Christopher Angel Redondo, 35, of Globe, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the killing.

After the killing, Redondo and Daimen Joseph Irizarry, 30, of Gilbert, led officers on a wild chase from Mesa to the mining community of Superior, where they were wounded in a gun battle with officers, authorities said. Irizarry was driving their vehicle and faces charges of aggravated assault and unlawful flight.

The two remain hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

After being released in June 2008 from a four-year term in an Arizona prison for aggravated assault and related charges, Redondo became more and more angry and distrustful of police, and showed violent tendencies, particularly to animals, according to a probable-cause statement released Wednesday.

The document also states that Redondo sent a profanity-laced text message to Irizarry's father during the police chase.

"Keep it gangster!!" said the message. "Let the bullets spit ... Spark it up. Let's get lit!!!"

Meanwhile, Irizarry sounded "hysterical" during the chase when he spoke on the phone to one of Redondo's family members and his own father, according to the document. "Daimen stated, 'Christopher freaked out. The police are after us,'" it said.

In the hospital, Irizarry later told police he didn't know Redondo had a gun.

"Daimen stated he was looking in his side view mirror when he heard a 'pow,'" according to the document. "He panicked and drove away as Christopher yelled for him to 'go.'"

Redondo declined to speak to police after he was read his rights but later told a lieutenant: "I'm sorry, he scared me," according to the document.

Friends and family remembered Shuhandler at his funeral Wednesday as having a heart and smile as big as his 6-foot-6-inch frame.

Dara Shuhandler, his mother, tearfully read the poem "Funeral Blues" flanked by Shuhandler's two daughters, saying that her son "was our North and South, our East and West, our working week, and our Sunday best."

"Our laughter, our joy, our baby, and our song," she read. "We thought our time would last forever, we were wrong."

Sgt. Todd Baty, Shuhandler's friend and colleague, thanked the officers who joined in the pursuit and shot Redondo and Irizarry.

"I have to admit there was a disappointment about the hospital when we learned that they were only wounded, but any of us who have ever swatted a roach know that they do not always die as quickly or easily as we would like," he said.

Baty continued to express his anger with Redondo and Irizarry.

"I would gladly tell each of you to go to hell, but my authority only goes so far and I can't make that decision," he said. "Nevertheless I feel there will be a day when you actually do hear those words, and those words are going to be thundered from an angry judgment seat and likely the last ones you will ever hear."

Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, who also knew Shuhandler, said that Wednesday was a day of sadness but also a day of "deep appreciation."

"To Lt. Eric and his fellow officers who answered the call and continue to answer the call to provide protection and safety," he said.

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