Ross D. Franklin/AP
PHOENIX — A man who shot his ex-girlfriend at a Phoenix home early Friday ambushed the first officer at the scene, critically injuring him, then opened fire on other officers as they tried to save a baby left outside the door.
A total of five officers were shot, four of whom were injured as they tried to get the baby to safety. Four other officers were injured by shrapnel or ricocheting bullets, police said.
All the officers were expected to survive and the little girl was unharmed.
“A baby is safe today thanks to our Phoenix police officers,” Mayor Kate Gallego said.
The most seriously injured police officer was the first to arrive at the home, around 2:15 a.m., following the report of a woman shot dead. He was invited inside, Phoenix Police Sgt. said Andy Williams.
“As he approached the door, the suspect ambushed him with a gun and shot him several times,” he said. “This officer was able to come back and get away safely.”
Video from the scene shows another man exiting holding a baby and a satchel. The man put the satchel on the floor then laid the infant, wrapped in a blanket, between the satchel and the front door. He raised his hands in surrender as he walked away from the house.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
After this man was arrested, other officers approached the door to retrieve the baby and the suspect fired more shots. The police returned fire, which then led to the suspect being barricaded. Eight of the officers were injured by bullets or shrapnel during that exchange, Williams said.
Police were able to get the baby to safety as a SWAT unit took over.
The suspect remained barricaded for several hours and was later found dead inside the house. Police did not say how he died.
They also found the suspect’s ex-girlfriend, who had been shot and seriously injured. She died hours later, police said. Williams said the baby was believed to be the child of the woman and the suspect. The baby is now in state custody.
The man who carried the baby outside suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Williams said he was a family member and was cooperating with police.
“There is no information to suggest he was part of the ambush, but it is an ongoing investigation,” Williams said.
Police identified the shooter as Morris Jones, 36, and said they were still trying to find out about the circumstances leading up to the incident. Detectives were gathering evidence and processing the scene Friday morning.
Williams declined to say if Morris had a criminal record or if police had ever been called to the home.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
“This is just one more example of the dangers officers face every day to keep us and our community safe,” Police Chief Jeri Williams said at an early morning news conference. . “If I look upset, I am. It’s insane. It doesn’t have to happen and it keeps happening over and over again.”
Chris Grollnek, an active shooter expert, told The Associated Press on Friday that it was important to know how the incident was initially reported. Was it a 911 call from the woman pleading for help? A neighbor reporting gunshots and screams?
The immediate information will determine the reaction of first officers when they arrive on the scene, he said.
Traditionally, a barricaded suspect buys police time to establish a perimeter and call a SWAT team, which can take 20 minutes to arrive. But if someone is hurt inside, “the human factor takes over,” Grollnek said. “I’m the first one there, I go in.”
Charles “Sid” Heal, former commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SWAT unit, said department policies often give decision-making power to the responding officer.
Both Heal and Grollnek described shooting officers trying to save a baby as “evil”. They said police protocols simply could not cover such a scenario.
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen often enough that we ever have a protocol for it,” Heal said.
He added that he could not imagine a situation where officers left the baby exposed because it was too dangerous for them to save the child.
“The moral factors far outweigh the physical risk,” he said.
The middle-class southwest Phoenix neighborhood where the shooting took place has tightly packed newly built stucco homes and sits next to large shipping and fulfillment facilities for businesses. The house had its second story windows knocked down.
Frank DeAguilar, its landlord, said the residence was a rental and he knew nothing of the people who lived there, including their names. He said a property management company was handling the details.
“It’s just a sad situation,” DeAguilar said.