PHOENIX – An Arizona law officer was struck and killed by another officer's patrol car while he was laying down spike strips to stop a vehicle during a high-speed freeway chase, authorities said Friday.
The officer, Chris Marano, 28, of the Phoenix suburb of Surprise, was a father of four who worked for the Arizona Department of Public Safety for more than three years.
The chase reached speeds of 100 mph, starting late Thursday after a vehicle was spotted with a stolen license plate on a north Phoenix freeway, Lt. Steve Harrison said. One DPS officer pursued the vehicle, and Marano laid down spike strips near an overpass in an attempt to stop the driver.
Witnesses said Marano was standing in the right shoulder of the westbound freeway when he was hit by the DPS cruiser, Harrison said.
The fleeing driver exited the freeway, then ran away and was captured hiding on the balcony of a condominium.
Police arrested Georgia Lynn Baker, 43, of Phoenix. Baker was bitten by a police dog and expected to remain in the hospital until late Friday for minor surgery, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said. She is believed to have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the chase.
Once she is released from the hospital, Baker will be booked into Maricopa County Jail on felony murder charges in connection with Marano's death, Harrison said.
"Clearly she facilitated this event. All she had to do was stop, pull over to the shoulder and there would have never been a pursuit or this traffic collision resulting in the death of Officer Marano," Harrison said.
Graves said DPS guidelines for pursuits were met because Baker was driving recklessly and endangering the public.
Arizona court records show Baker has had several run-ins with the law in the past decade, including vehicle theft, burglary, forgery and theft charges. She served most of a three-year prison term for combined cases from Maricopa and Yavapai counties and was released in September 2007, according to a corrections department spokesman.
DPS would not reveal the name of the officer who hit Marano. The officer sustained a broken hand in the accident and will need surgery.
Harrison said the officer is shaken knowing his actions contributed to Marano's death.
"He knows he struck the officer. And now he knows that his actions contributed to the officer's death," Harrison said. "He's having a very difficult time with that, as you can well imagine."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered flags at state buildings flown half staff "to honor and recognize one of Arizona's finest."
Marano was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., and graduated from Washburn High School in Minneapolis. He then joined the Navy, where he was a military police officer from 2000 to 2005 and remained in the Naval reserve until 2008.
Marano is survived by his wife, Shelly Marano, and children ages 7, 5, 5, and 4 months.