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Ex-con who killed Phoenix officer had been deported

Erik Jovani Martinez is an ex-con deported in March

By Amanda Lee Myers
Arizona Daily Star
PHOENIX, Ariz. — The man who shot and killed a Phoenix police officer before he himself later was fatally shot by authorities was an illegal immigrant, a federal official said Wednesday.

Erik Jovani Martinez, 22, was in the country illegally last year when he was arrested and convicted on sex charges, said Vinnie Picard, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He said Martinez was deported on March 3 last year, and at some point re-entered the country illegally.

Martinez was stopped by Phoenix police Officer Nick Erfle on Tuesday for jaywalking on a busy central Phoenix street. Knowing he had a felony arrest warrant for aggravated assault, police said Martinez gave them an alias.

But that plan backfired when the alias turned up a different arrest warrant for shoplifting out of Tucson. When Erfle and his partner tried to arrest Martinez, a fight ensued, Martinez pulled a gun and fatally shot Erfle, said Phoenix police Sgt. Joel Tranter.

He said Martinez then ran from the scene, jumped into a car stopped in traffic, and told the man inside to drive as he pointed a gun at him.

Police soon caught up with him, stopped the car and fatally shot Martinez when he pointed his gun at the hostage’s head, Tranter said. Martinez died in the car, and the hostage was unharmed.

Erfle, a 33-year-old married father of two and an eight-year veteran of the force, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police did not say how many times or where on his body he was shot.

Tranter said the officer had survived a bout with cancer. After taking some time off for treatment, Erfle returned to uniform patrol as quickly as he could rather than accept desk duty.

In Erfle’s north Phoenix neighborhood Tuesday night, Tiana Iannuzzi, 17, tearfully remembered the officer, describing him as a playful and patient family man who never raised his voice. Iannuzzi baby-sat Erfle’s two sons, ages 3 and 5, and told The Arizona Republic the officer was “a great guy.”

A makeshift memorial consisting of a white cross, flowers and stuffed animals has been erected near the shooting scene. It’s also become a gathering place for fellow officers to mourn their loss.

Erfle’s killing is the second shooting death of an officer with the Phoenix Police Department this year. George Cortez Jr., 23, was shot to death in July as he attempted to arrest a check forgery suspect at a west Phoenix check-cashing business.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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