Payson Police officer Allen Dyer, who was shot Saturday in the chest, stomach and back in front of a crowd of shoppers at Wal-Mart, is recuperating at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix this week.
Police said a man carrying a gun shot Dyer --a three-month employee of the Payson Police Department -- when the officer put himself between Wal-Mart shoppers and the gunman. The suspected gunman, 40-year-old Lenny Kizzar, allegedly shot the officer and fled into a nearby neighborhood. Police think Kizzar was trying to evade an arrest warrant for his connection with the bombing of a church in Heber, Ariz. earlier this year.
According to officer Dean Faust, police were called to the shopping center at 1:33 p.m., when a man was seen in front of Walgreens with a pistol stuck in the waistband of his pants. By the time officers arrived, the suspect was walking east toward Wal-mart.
While officers approached the west and north side of Wal-Mart, Dyer went to the southeast corner of the store to escort customers off the sidewalk.
Another officer, Donald Garvin, was near the service desk of the department store, passing out information about bicycle safety.
"I don't think officer Dyer ever actually approached the suspect," said Lt. Don Engler. "He was trying to get the citizens back, and as the suspect approached him, officer Dyer positioned himself between the people that were there and Kizzar."
"I think he recognized there was a serious danger," said Police Chief Gordon Gartner. "He put himself between the customers and the suspect."
Gartner said when Dyer turned around, he was face to face with Kizzar.
Police think Kizzar shot Dyer twice with a .44-caliber Magnum, once in the chest and once in the stomach. Dyer shot one round off, fell and then Kizzar shot him once more in the back, police said.
Dyer was wearing a bullet-proof vest. As of Monday, police were uncertain whether the vest failed, or the bullets missed the vest.
"I was doing a public relations deal inside Wal-Mart," Garvin said. "I was monitoring my radio, listening to what was going on, and I heard (Sgt. Rod) Mamero saying, 'Whatever happens, we don't want the suspect going inside Wal-Mart.'"
Garvin abandoned his booth and stood by the front entrance to the store to provide security.
"Shortly after I went inside the main corridor area, I heard what sounded like firecrackers or shots -- I wasn't sure," Garvin said. "I exited out the south doors and heard more shots.
"Citizens are running and screaming everywhere," Garvin said. "It's pandemonium, and all I know is that we're looking for a white male wearing a red checkered flannel shirt."
Garvin made his way through the crowd, and by the time he approached the wounded officer, he could see a man jogging northeast across the parking lot.
"He was the only person running in the opposite direction of everyone else," Garvin said. "He was also wearing a red checkered shirt. The suspect wasn't in a hurry. He was not sprinting like he'd just shot an officer. He was jogging."
Garvin was able to direct back-up officers toward the suspect, while calling for an ambulance.
Firefighter/EMT Laurie Lindell of the Diamond-Star Fire Department and 8-year-old Cydney Figueroa were just outside the store when the shooting took place.
"We ran over to assist the injured officer until the fire department could arrive," Lindell said. "The scene was chaotic, and Cyd was a little shaken up. I think she was one of the real heroes of the day. That was a lot for a third-grader to see, but she allowed me to help until the paramedics could arrive."
Officers Mike Mellor and Dean Faust chased the suspect through the neighborhood northeast of Wal-Mart. Kizzar fired one more shot while Mellor chased him around a building. Faust approached from the other side and the suspected was trapped between the two.
"I ordered him to drop his weapon," Faust said. Instead, Kizzar pointed the gun at himself and threatened to commit suicide. Both officers continued to shout demands at the suspect and he finally dropped his weapon.
While the suspect was being taken into custody, medics transported Dyer to Payson Regional Medical Center, and then air-lifted him to Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix.
Officers from the Payson Police Department and Gila County Sheriff's Department secured the scene, and the investigation was turned over to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Investigators marked the scene with police tape while they searched the area for stray bullets and interviewed witnesses. Manzanita Drive, just east of Wal-Mart, was closed until 5:30 a.m. Sunday, police said.
"We really want to thank all of the witnesses for being so cooperative," said Chief Gartner.
"And, we especially want to thank Ponderosa Steakhouse. They stayed open late, let us go in and out of their back door, supplied us with coffee."
DPS Public Information Officer Andy Vidaure said detectives were continuing their investigation Monday.
"We have one opportunity to collect evidence," Vidaure said. "If it's a critical piece of evidence that takes special consideration, we'll take one hour, three hours -- as long as it takes to get that evidence, we'll take that time."
DPS has not released any specifics about the investigation, including information about where Dyer's bullet-proof vest may have been struck.
Dyer retired as a sergeant from the Phoenix Police Department, before returning to police work and joining the Payson force three months ago. His wife and children are still living in the Valley.
"As of today, when I asked, (the hospital) is not real clear on where or what his injuries are," Vidaure said. "He did receive an abdominal entry wound, which caused the minor internal injuries. That required his surgery on Saturday."
"He was in pretty good spirits when I saw him (Sunday) night," Faust said. "He said, '22 years in Phoenix, and only three months in Payson and I get shot. Well, apparently, I didn't meet the right person.'"
Monday, Dyer's condition was upgraded from critical to serious, and Vidaure said doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Charged with attempted murder, Kizzar remains in the Gila County jail in Globe in lieu of $2,010,000 bond.