Gunman Pleads Guilty To Shooting Officer

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Payson Police Officer Allen Dyer watched Thursday as the man who shot him two times in front of Wal-Mart last fall, pleaded guilty to the crime.

Lenny Kizzar, 41, of Cold Springs, Ariz., pleaded guilty in Gila County Superior Court in Payson to the six felonies he was charged with in connection with the Oct. 30 shooting.

"I really don't have any comment about the guilty plea," Dyer said Friday morning.

"He pleaded guilty to everything that was in the indictment," Kizzar's attorney, James Hazel said. "That's two counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of a felon in possession of a weapon. He could be doing anywhere from 10 years and up."

During interviews with police after the shooting, Kizzar reportedly told officers that he'd been wandering around town for several days before the shooting, carrying a .44-caliber Magnum handgun.

Investigators considered Kizzar to be a witness in the May 1999 bombing of a Mormon church in Heber. As a result, Kizzar told police, he was afraid for his life and was trying to coax someone into shooting him.

Kizzar admitted Thursday that he shot Dyer Oct. 30, 1999, in front of a crowd of sidewalk shoppers at the old Wal-Mart off Highway 260.

The 54-year-old officer had only been working in Payson three months when he set out with a group of other officers to search the area for a man who was reportedly walking around the shopping center with a handgun.

Dyer spotted Kizzar near the store's sidewalk sale display and stepped between Kizzar who had the .44-caliber Magnum handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants and the store's shoppers just before Kizzar shot him two times in the chest and stomach.

Kizzar ran into a nearby neighborhood but was caught and arrested a short time later.

The wounded officer, who was a 22-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, spent six months recovering and returned to light duty service April 24. He returned to full-time patrol duty last month.

"I'm doing pretty good," Dyer said Friday. "I'm going to have some discomfort for probably the indefinite foreseeable future, but all in all, I'm doing good. I'm just glad to be back at work."

As lead prosecutor, Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose said he was a little disappointed by the defendant's change of plea Thursday.

"It's a little bit of a let down for me," DeRose said. "We must have had 20 to 30 witnesses subpoenaed and ready to go."

No plea agreement

DeRose said Kizzar was eager to make a deal during his court appearance Thursday, but he didn't find any takers.

"They wanted to get us to agree that he could plead no contest to a couple of the counts," DeRose said. "We told him there would be no plea agreement on any of the issues. I would not put my name on any plea agreement that involved a police shooting. It was plead guilty, or go to trial.

"He opted to plead guilty to all counts."

Hazel said his client could be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.

"We've got a doctor appointed to do a mental-health sentencing report on Kizzar," Hazel said.

Kizzar was examined earlier this year and found competent to stand trial.

The mental-health screening is different than a competency examination because it analyzes mitigating factors that could explain why Kizzar committed the crimes.

"That won't affect the outcome of his sentence in any way," Hazel said. "He will be going to the Department of Corrections, and probation is not available based on the nature of the crime."

Kizzar will be sentenced by Judge Edd Dawson at 9 a.m. Aug. 24 at Gila County Superior Court in Payson.

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