GILBERT, Ariz. – Two men suspected in the fatal shooting of a policeman led dozens of Arizona law officers on a 50-mile midnight chase, but couldn't shake pursuers despite firing bullets and spreading debris, officials said.
The suspects tossed out wrenches, other tools and an air compressor tank during the chase around midnight Thursday, police said. A half-dozen police cruisers were disabled after hitting debris or being struck by bullets.
Despite the lethal efforts, the numbers of law officers continued to grow even as damaged law enforcement vehicles dropped out and the officers inside hitched rides with fellow pursuers.
The chase ended near the small mountain mining community of Superior as violently as it began. The suspects jumped out and opened fire on police before falling to the ground in a hail of bullets. Both are expected to survive.
Authorities said the two men were initially pulled over by Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler, 42, near the southeast Phoenix suburb of Gilbert at about 11 p.m. on Thursday.
Shuhandler, a 16-year veteran, was shot in the face as he walked back toward the pickup after finding the passenger had an arrest warrant, said Gilbert police spokesman Sgt. Mark Marino. Shuhandler, the father of two girls, was rushed to a hospital, where he died shortly before midnight.
The suspects were identified as Christopher A. Redondo, 35, of Globe, and Daimen Irizarry, 30, of Gilbert, Marino said.
Redondo is believed to have been the gunman and Irizarry the driver who led officers from multiple law enforcement agencies on the pursuit.
"It is nothing short of a miracle that no officers or members of the public were injured or killed," Gilbert Police Chief Timothy Dorn said Friday.
Shuhandler stopped the suspects' work truck for having an obscured license plate, Marino said. Shuhandler went back to his patrol car and found that the passenger, Redondo, apparently had an arrest warrant. He called for backup and was walking back to the passenger side of the truck when he was shot, about 12 minutes after pulling two men over.
Other officers saw the fleeing truck and a high-speed chase began along U.S. 60, which is a freeway in the metro area but turns into a two-lane highway as it nears Superior.
Once in the mountains, the truck stopped in the middle of the highway and both men jumped out, said Lt. Steve Harrison of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
"They engaged in what only can be described as a gun battle with officers," he said.
Both suspects were wounded in the lower extremities, taken into custody and hospitalized. Both were in stable, non-life-threatening condition Friday, according to Harrison.
Despite the law enforcement entourage, no officers other than Shuhandler were hurt.
Two more police vehicles were involved in a collision at the end of the chase, Marino said.
Redondo spent nearly four years in an Arizona prison for aggravated assault and related charges and was released in June 2008, according to Arizona Department of Corrections online records.
Irizarry pleaded guilty to assault in Pinal County Superior Court in 2004 and was sentenced to probation, online court records show. An arrest warrant was issued in 2006.
Shuhandler was wearing body armor, Marino said. "Unfortunately he was shot in the head."
He is survived by his ex-wife, daughters, ages 10 and 12, his parents and a sister, Marino said. Services were pending.
"Right now our entire department is in mourning," Marino said.