Phoenix serial killings suspect left behind shell casings
PHOENIX – The man arrested in a string of serial killings left behind bullet casings at each crime that authorities tested and linked him to the shootings, police said in documents released Friday that provide the most detailed narrative to date about a case that unnerved Phoenix neighborhoods last year.
The documents were released after media organizations including The Associated Press, Arizona Republic and Phoenix TV stations went to court in a bid to get prosecutors to unseal the evidence that led to the arrest of 23-year-old Aaron Saucedo in nine killings.
Police say that in one of his killings, Saucedo opened fire on a man walking along a Phoenix street on New Year's Day 2016 and then got out of his car and kicked him twice before calmly driving away. The documents also say video footage captured from a July 2016 shooting determined the shooter's car was a 5-series BMW — the same model that Saucedo drove.
Saucedo emerged as a possible culprit just weeks after the last of the nine shootings. Two witnesses told authorities in August 2016 that Saucedo matched a composite sketch of the suspect and drove a BMW similar to one seen at the crimes. Homicide detectives interrogated him in December, about five months before he was arrested.
In the interview, Saucedo told authorities he drove a BMW and owned a 9mm handgun, which he said had been stolen.
Saucedo told a judge last week "I'm innocent" in the hours after he was arrested. Dean Roskosz, one of Saucedo's court-appointed attorneys, didn't immediately return a call Friday seeking comment on the allegations made in the newly released document.
Police say Saucedo randomly opened fire on people after dark, primarily in a largely Latino neighborhood in Phoenix. Many residents reacted by staying inside after dark as police fielded thousands of tips.
Police say his victims include a 21-year-old man whose girlfriend was pregnant with their son and a 12-year-girl who was shot to death along with her mother and a friend of the woman. No motive has been established. Saucedo knew only one of the victims.
The court document focuses heavily on ballistic analysis that investigators say links Saucedo to the shootings, marking the first time investigators are publicly revealing evidence that ties the cases together.
Investigators say they found 9-mm bullet casings at all of the shootings, except for the January 2016 shooting death of 22-year-old Jesse Olivas, when officers recovered .380 casings. In that case, police said the .380 bullet recovered from Olivas' body was fired from the same handgun owned by Saucedo.
A month ago, authorities seized a black 2001 5 Series BMW from Saucedo's home. Police say the vehicle in question matched the description of the attacker's car in the July 2016 shooting. A 9mm shell casing was found in the car when it was seized on April 18. Police say the casing found inside the car was fired from the same gun as the shells found after nine of the 12 attacks.
Police said Saucedo drove a separate vehicle — a Hyundai — and they found more than a dozen shells in the vehicle that connected him to the killings.
Rosa Pastrana, head of the Maryvale block watch program, said residents seem happier and more relaxed since Saucedo's arrest, but they still need more information. The arrest did not come easy because people in Latino communities are hesitant to speak with state and law enforcement officials, she said.
Even now that Saucedo is behind bars, community members are fearful that Saucedo's friends could retaliate against them and their families, Pastrana said.
"I personally believe that there's more people involved," community advocate Lydia Hernandez said. "I just am not convinced that this 23-year-old from the hood is savvy enough to have made that happen."
Associated Press Writers Angie Wang and Clarice Silber contributed to this report.