Police shot and killed a 31-year-old New Mexico man early Tuesday morning in the Safeway Shopping Center parking lot during what appears to be a domestic disturbance.
Just after midnight, Payson Police Department officers Jirhod Brennan, Kyle Bathke and Carson Frahm responded to Safeway, 401 E. Highway 260, for reports of a man physically forcing a woman into a black SUV at gunpoint, according to Chief Ron Tischer in a press release. Police later learned the man and woman were a couple and were traveling to New Mexico when they stopped in the Safeway parking lot.
Officers arrived within minutes and spotted the vehicle, directing the occupants to exit.
“After receiving commands from officers, the female driver exited the vehicle. As she was being brought back to a squad car, the male passenger quickly exited the vehicle, turned towards officers and made a motion as if he was drawing a weapon from his waistband,” Tischer wrote. “Officers commanded the male suspect to stop and show his hands. The suspect did not comply with the officers’ commands and forced officers to fire their weapons to stop the imminent threat. Officers immediately rendered first aid and applied tourniquets to the suspect.”
All three officers fired on the man, leaving shell casings strewn across the parking lot. The Arizona Department of Public Safety investigators were later seen walking up and down the parking lot looking for casings.
Payson Fire continued treatment, and the man was subsequently flown to Scottsdale for his injuries, where he was pronounced dead at a hospital in Scottsdale.
Since it involves local officers, an outside agency, DPS, is investigating.
Tischer said DPS was still gathering information, getting warrants and trying to determine what circumstances led up to the couple’s dispute.
He said he was not sure what, if any, weapons investigators had found in the vehicle or if the man was armed.
“He was reaching like he had something,” Tischer said.
The officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Brennan has more than 4.5 years’ experience; Bathke, 2 years; and Frahm, 13 months.
The officers have worked together on the same squad since October of last year.
Tischer said based on everything he has learned, the officers’ actions were justified. He said they followed policy “to a tee.”
This is the second officer involved shooting this year and the second one involving officer Brennan.
In January, officers shot and killed a man near the Bison Cove apartments, just across the street from the PPD.
Since then, the department has had an open internal investigation going. DPS has completed its investigation of the incident and the county attorney declined to prosecute any of the officers in that incident, which includes Sgt. Justin Deaton, Brennan and officer Max Farren.
The town is facing a civil suit regarding the case.
Those officers have all returned to the force.
Tischer said they would evaluate when Bathke, Frahm and Brennan return to work sometime next week.
“We used to keep officers out before until an investigation is done, but it could be months,” he said. “Now, as soon as they are ready to come back, we will bring them back.”
The PPD is currently going through the accreditation process through the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police’s Arizona Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ALEAP).
By going through the two-year process, a department can prove to the ALEAP Commission that the department complies with 174 standards. These standards are considered “best practices” in the state.
The St. Johns Police Department in the White Mountains received accreditation in July 2020. It is now one of eight agencies in the state with ALEAP accreditation.
The name of the man killed Tuesday has not been released.