Taser Saves Life Of Armed Suspect

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Payson police officers avoided the use of deadly force Tuesday morning when they detained a homicidal and suicidal man with a Taser at his home on Eidelweiss Circle.

"The Taser saved his life," Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "If they did not have the Taser, he would have been shot by the officers."

The man, Tony Pearce, 39, called 911 around 2 a.m., saying his dog had died and he needed help. The call quickly escalated. Pearce soon threatened suicide and homicide. Pearce told Payson Police Dispatcher Monique Usher that he was armed with an assault rifle and would kill any officer who tried to enter the home. Then he told her that his wish was to die by "suicide by cop."

Pearce's admission to Usher that he had assaulted his sister and she needed medical attention, and the presence of minor children in the home added to the urgency of the situation.

Usher was able to speak to a 16-year-old relative who confirmed that Pearce did not have a rifle, but did have a knife.

"(Usher) did an outstanding job of managing the guy and keeping him on the phone," Gartner said.

Lt. Don Engler said officers on the scene -- Sgt. John Heflin and Officer Les Barr -- saw an opportunity to take action before backup arrived.

When Heflin and Barr entered the house, they confronted Pearce who was armed with a butcher knife.

"He charged the officers with a butcher knife," Gartner said.

Barr deployed his Taser, sending 50,000 volts of electricity through Pearce's body, and incapacitating him.

Pearce was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where he was met by a counselor from Rim Guidance Center. Pearce's sister suffered only minor injuries.

After his release from the hospital, Pearce was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and one count of assault-domestic violence.

Pearce remains in custody without bond at the Gila County jail in Globe, officials said, because of a parole violation out of Mohave County.

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