Manhunt snares suspect who shot officer
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 16, 2003 01:35 PM
A man suspected of opening fire upon a rookie officer for the Arizona Department of Public Safety was arrested Thursday after a desert manhunt near Wenden in La Paz County.
The yet unidentified person was captured without incident about 1 p.m. north of U.S. 60, about two miles east of Wenden. Details were not immediately available.
The suspect was taken into custody 11 hours after Robert Flannery, 38, a DPS patrolman for about a year, was released from a Phoenix hospital after being treated for shots that struck him in the chest and wrist.
A bulletproof vest stopped one of the bullets; the other shot deflected off his wristwatch, authorities said.
On Thursday, U.S. 60 remained closed along on a 24-mile stretch between Aguila and Wenden as officers from several agencies combed the desert looking for the shooter.
The suspect fled on foot into the desert about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday after DPS officers, using highway spikes, managed to disable his vehicle, said Officer Frank Valenzuela, a DPS spokesman.
Valenzuela said the ordeal began about 8:55 p.m. Wednesday when Flannery made a routine traffic stop on Interstate 10, about 29 miles east of the California border.
The driver of a red Nissan with California plates opened fire on Flannery, then pulled away, he said. Flannery managed to return the fire, shooting out the back window of the car.
Later in the evening, the vehicle was spotted on U.S. 60 between Wenden and Aguila and was disabled at milepost 73 following a pursuit that exceeded 100 mph, at times.
"The car went off the road into some bushes," Valenzuela said. "The suspect then exited the vehicle and ran into the desert south of the highway."
Law-enforcement officers converged on the scene and set up a perimeter north of the Harquahala Mountains, launching a full-scale ground search at sunrise with helicopters and tracking dogs.
Valenzuela said that a semiautomatic handgun was found near a barbed-wire fence. It was believed to be the weapon that was used to fire upon Flannery.
The search was conducted by DPS officers, assisted by lawmen from the Phoenix Police Department, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Maricopa and La Paz county sheriff's offices.
Valenzuela said that Flannery was transported by helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, where he was treated for a large bruise on his chest and some "soft-tissue injury" to the wrist area.
Mike Todd, a spokemsan for Native Air Ambulance, described Falnnery as lucky to be alive, saying that the vest can be credited for saving the officer's life.
Officer Steve Volden, another DPS spokesman, said that Flannery, who is assigned to a DPS office in the Quartzsite area, did not want to discuss his ordeal with the press.
Authorities described the gunman as an Anglo with dark hair and a goatee.
They said attempts were made to develop leads through tracing ownership of the disabled car, but the results were inconclusive.