A camouflage-clad man driving a red Mustang convertible opened fire on law enforcement officers with an assault rifle at five locations throughout Tucson Sunday, critically injuring one and wounding two others before giving up on Mount Lemmon Highway.
Doctors have said that Tucson police officer Erik Hite, 43, who was shot in the head during the chase, is â€śvery unlikely to live,â€ť Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda said. Hite is on life support at University Medical Center.
Hired in February 2004, Hite is a four-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department. He previously served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force, Miranda said.
He has a wife, Nohemy, and two children: a baby, not yet a year old, named Samantha; and a son, Roy David, who is serving in the military in San Antonio, Miranda said. His age and branch of service were not available Sunday.
Hiteâ€™s parents were on their way to Tucson from Portland, Ore.
Miranda said Hite was â€śambushedâ€ť and shot once in the head at 10:27 a.m. at Tanque Verde and Tomohawk Trail, just west of Houghton Road. Two Pima County Sheriff's deputies also were shot during the cross-town chase, which began before 10 a.m., but their injuries are not life-threatening.
The shooting spree began at just before 10 a.m. Sunday in North Tucson in the 8400 block of North Placita de la Manzana when the suspect, David Nicholas Delich, 25, fired at two houses with an assault rifle, said Rick Kastigar, Pima County Sheriff's Bureau Chief. He didn't hit anybody.
A Sheriff's deputy found the suspect driving west of Oracle Road on Ina Road and began chasing him. At Ina and Oracle, the shooter fired at the deputy, hitting him in the right shoulder. The deputy continued the chase south on Oracle but lost track of the man, Kastigar said.
Deputies working on the east side picked him up near Swan and River. A chase continued with several officers trailing the red mustang, Kastigar said. As they drove east on Tanque Verde, the suspect fired shots back at the officers on Tanque Verde Road bridge. The shots didnâ€™t hit anybody. Further ahead, west of Houghton Road on Tanque Verde, officers laid down stop sticks.
Before he hit them, Delich made an abrupt left turn heading north on to a side street called Tomahawk Trail, Kastigar said. There, he fired at Hite, who was immediately behind him, striking him more than once, including in the head, Kastigar said. Hite was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
Delich was able to lose the officers after shooting the officer, Kastigar said. They found him again driving up Catalina Highway on the way to Mount Lemmon. At milepost 1.5, he shot at a Sheriff's deputy, causing a minor wound to the side of his head, Kastigar said.
The man continued north and gave up at Molina Basin at about 11 a.m., more than an hour after the incident began. He was arrested and taken into custody. A background check shows that Delich has been arrested on criminal trespassing, a marijuana violation and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has not spent any time in Arizona prisons.
Nobody else was injured during the chase, Kastigar said. Catalina Highway and other areas where shootings occurred were closed Sunday, causing significant traffic delays. Investigators don't know why the man went on the shooting spree, Kastigar said.
The shooting spree and chase was a harrowing experience for people on Catalina Highway and at the shooting locations. Jody and Don Mackey were biking up Catalina Highway near Molino Basin when somebody in a car told them to get out of there, and that somebody was shooting at people with a rifle, they said. Then, they saw 20-25 officers speed up the highway.
"You knew something horrible was happening," said Jody Mackey, of Tucson. They sped back down the mountain on their bikes to ensure their safety. "It was scary, it was horrifying," said Jody Mackey, of Tucson. "We didn't want to get killed."
Children Gab and Nolan Illanas, heard the gunshots from their house in the Tanque Verde Woods subdivision, just east of where the Tucson Police officer was shot. The children also saw police officers speed off behind the Mustang after the shots were fired. Nolan, 10, went outside to see what was going on and saw a police officer in his car at the entrance to the neighborhood. "We were, like, really scared," Nolan said.
Their mother, Sheree Illanas, said the children, like the rest of the neighbors, were unharmed but shaken. â€śItâ€™s always quiet here,â€ť said Judy Harris, who lives in the same neighborhood. â€śSo that was pretty scary.â€ť
Chris Moseley said he moved from Los Angeles, where he lived for 10 years, to get away from incidents like Sundayâ€™s. He never expected to see something so gruesome occur so close to his familyâ€™s house. â€śIt is kind of strange to see something like this happen on this side of town,â€ť Moseley said.