Sheriff Antonio Estrada said one of his deputies shot and killed a suspect on Christmas Day in Rio Rico after the man rammed the deputy’s patrol car with a semi truck, and the deputy believed he was preparing to ram him again.
The incident began with what Estrada described as a frantic 911 call late Friday afternoon, in which the caller said an intruder was terrorizing people at a home in southeast Rio Rico.
Estrada said the suspect had gone to the home looking for a person who had since left. He said the man became enraged, threatened the people still in the residence and tried to get inside.
The suspect, whom Estrada described as an adult Hispanic male, reportedly got into the semi truck and began ramming cars in a carport, as well as crashing into the residence itself. At some point, the sheriff said, the man managed to get into the home, but he was back outside and in the semi-truck by the time a sheriff’s deputy who was nearby responded to the call.
The suspect used the semi truck, which was not attached to a trailer at the time, to ram the deputy’s vehicle and spin it around, Estrada said.
The man was preparing to ram the patrol vehicle again, the sheriff said, when the deputy got out and fired his gun “numerous” times, killing the man.
“The officer did everything he could to prevent further damage and avoid any further injuries,” Estrada said.
“I can say the officer needs to be given credit for the action he took, which was obviously in self-defense,” he added.
The deputy, who Estrada described as a veteran patrol officer, was put on leave pending an investigation. The sheriff declined to provide the name of the deputy or the suspect who was killed, citing the ongoing investigation that’s being conducted by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
A spokesman for the PCSD confirmed that his department is investigating the shooting on behalf of Santa Cruz County, but wasn’t immediately able to provide information about the case, including the names of the people involved.
Estrada said there were no other physical injuries suffered during the incident, though the people in the home had been traumatized.
What’s more, he said, the suspect damaged the residence so badly that the fire department had ruled it unsafe for further habitation.
Shootings of civilians by local and state law enforcement are rare in Santa Cruz County.
Last year, the Arizona Republic published the results of an investigation that catalogued 600 police shootings throughout the state between 2011 and 2018. Santa Cruz was the only one of the state’s 15 counties that did not have a local police shooting during that period, and Friday’s case was the first such incident since the report was published.
Shootings of civilians by federal law enforcement officers are more common in the county. The most recent reported case occurred on Sept. 21 in the Patagonia Mountains, when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a suspected undocumented border-crosser who reportedly attacked and stabbed him with a knife.