Warning Shot Turns Deadly

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A Tonto Basin man was pronounced dead at his employer's home early Monday morning after what detectives are calling a justifiable shooting.

Gila County Sheriff's deputies found Edward A. Palmer, 39, dead at the scene, after they received a 911 call at 1:24 a.m. from the home of John Valdez in Tonto Basin.

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Edward Palmer

Neighbors reported that Palmer was working for Valdez. Detectives are still investigating the details of the case.

"Apparently Edward Palmer was under the influence of alcohol and other unknown substances," said Detective Brian Havey of the Gila County Sheriff's Office. "(Palmer) attacked John Valdez of Tonto Basin in his own residence."

Detectives believe Valdez acted in self-defense against Palmer, who had a history of violent behavior, criminal convictions and had served time in jail.

"Palmer attacked Valdez several times with his bare fists," Havey said. "He continued to attack three or four times."

After being assaulted by Palmer, Valdez armed himself with a .22-caliber rifle. Detectives said Valdez was concerned because Palmer carries a knife.

"Valdez pointed his .22 rifle low in order to scare Palmer off from further attacks," Havey said. "One round was fired from the rifle, striking Palmer on the femoral artery."

Emergency medical crews were called to the scene, but were not able to enter the residence until law enforcement could arrive.

"Ambulance crews and fire department personnel will not go into that kind of a dangerous environment, especially when a shot has been fired and someone has gone down by a gunshot wound," Havey said. "Unfortunately, Mr. Palmer bled out before anybody got on scene."

"We are trained that our safety comes first," said Steve Holt, Tonto Basin Fire District Chief. "We wait for law enforcement to arrive before we go in. And in this case, we waited for two officers, so it did take a little longer before we could make entry and get to the patient."

LifeStar EMS's Charlie Smith, a 30-year veteran of emergency medical services and former police officer, said the policy is a good one.

"We're there to save lives. However, we have to make sure that we're also safe so we can save that life," Smith said.

"When we are going to a scene where we know that deadly force has been used, or possibly used, we wait for law enforcement to arrive on scene and make sure the area is cleared of weapons and the scene is safe for the paramedics to do their job.

"I respect the Gila County Sheriff's Office, Payson Police Department and Highway Patrol. They are always there to make sure the bad guy who did the shooting isn't still in the area so we can take care of the victim," Smith said.

According to incident reports, Palmer's mother was on scene and attempted to stop the bleeding but was unsuccessful.

"(Palmer) was reported to be combative with his mother and Mr. Valdez even while they attempted to treat him," Havey said.

Palmer's mother and Valdez could not be reached for comment.

The case is being sent to the county attorney for review and an autopsy report has been requested. No charges were filed against Valdez.

"I don't believe there will be any charges against Mr. Valdez," Havey said. "It turned out to be a justifiable shooting."

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