Tucson man charged with murder in shooting death of Phoenix police officer

PHOENIX (AP) — A Tucson man with previous theft and weapons convictions was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and weapons violations in the fatal shooting of a Phoenix police officer.

Danny Ledezma Martinez, 30, was also charged with burglary and fleeing from a police vehicle, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said.

Prosecutors will decide whether to pursue the death penalty after reviewing the circumstances surrounding the slaying of Officer Travis Murphy on Wednesday.

Records show Martinez previously served more than four years of a five-year sentence for attempted sexual assault before being released in 2003.

He also spent more than three years in an Arizona prison on felony weapons misconduct charges in the Tucson area before being released in April 2009.

In addition, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges in October 2009 and theft in November 2003, records show.

"Unfortunately, our society, America's, Arizona's, there are those who have a life of crime," Romley said. "For some reason they don't learn their lesson when they go to the Department of Corrections."

Martinez made an initial court appearance late Wednesday and was ordered held without bail. He did not enter a plea. A public defender likely will be assigned to represent him.

Murphy and his partner, Officer Jillian Mahlmeister, were the first to respond to a 1:30 a.m. call in which neighbors reported someone hit a parked car and was trying to hide a Ford Mustang in the carport of a vacant home.

The officers got out of their patrol vehicle and split up in search of a suspect.

Moments later, Murphy was hit with multiple gunshots apparently fired from an AR-15-type rifle, according to a court document filed Thursday.

Mahlmeister found her partner with wounds to the waist and legs. Another officer drove him to a nearby hospital, where he died in surgery.

A police tactical team found Martinez less than two hours later hiding in a backyard shed several houses away from the shooting scene. He was naked and resisted officers but was taken into custody after being struck by rubber bullets and bitten by a police dog.

A rifle was found hidden in another nearby shed. Tests showed it was the rifle used in the assault on Murphy, Police Chief Jack Harris said.

Investigators found 11 spent .223-caliber rifle casings at the scene of the shooting, as well as two spent rounds that Murphy apparently fired from his handgun, the court document said.

The crashed Ford Mustang was registered to a Tucson address listed on the driver's license of Martinez, according to the court document.

At police headquarters on Thursday, Troy Campbell, Murphy's brother-in-law, told KTVK-TV that the killing leaves his sister's 2-year-old daughter and 2-week-old boy without a father.

"It's a devastating thing," Campbell said. "It's horrible. There's no replacing a father's love."