We’ll never know what violent, desperate impulse led Cody Archuleta to fire three times through the window of his car at Department of Public Safety Officer Seth Meeske.
But we will never forget the image of Meeske clutching the severed artery in his forearm as he radioed a warning to fellow officers, climbed back into his squad car and somehow drove himself to Payson Regional Medical Center, steering with his knees.
The terrible incident ended with Archuleta’s death in a dark field from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a terrifying, 100-mile-an-hour chase by a rookie DPS officer, a Gila County sheriff’s deputy and at least five Payson police officers.
On the one hand, the tragedy revealed the mindless violence that officers must guard against on even a routine traffic stop. We don’t yet know the full story behind Archuleta’s mad impulse. He had a record of drugs, drunkenness and theft — and several weapons in the car that would have sent him straight to prison given his criminal record. We hope an investigation will help us understand what he was still doing on the street — and where he obtained his guns.
But for now, we’re overcome with gratitude and admiration for Officer Meeske, who has spent his life protecting his fellow citizens — first as a Forest Service firefighter, then as a DPS officer. The risk he ran so matter-of-factly to stand his post became terrifyingly clear on that dark highway shoulder on Saturday night.
Roundup reporters rushed to cover the story as the drama unfolded on police radios.
Covering such dramatic, unfolding events poses special challenges these days, with a Web site where we can post events as they happen — and an Internet buzzing with information and rumor.
Throughout the terrible drama, we did our best to abide by the restrictions on information imposed by the Department of Public Safety, which was itself caught between the need to fully understand the facts and protect Officer Meeske and his family and the public’s deep concern.
We learned Officer Meeske’s identity days before the DPS officially released his name, but abided by those restrictions.
We hope our readers will understand, especially those who turn to us for up-to-date information on our Web site and our Facebook feed. We were frustrated with the restrictions, knowing that rumors were ricocheting through the community. But we knew we had to trust DPS to act in the interests of the wounded officer and his family.
So perhaps we never will understand what could drive someone to such dark, reckless and cruel actions.
But we do know one thing with certainty: We have had all this time a hero among us — and we pray only that he comes home soon.