Prosecutor: suspect shot Phoenix cop while he was on ground
PHOENIX (AP) — The suspect accused of shooting and critically wounding a Phoenix police officer had served prison time for armed robbery and other felonies and continued shooting at the officer after he was already on the ground, according to police and a prosecutor.
Images of Officer Tyler Moldovan being shot Tuesday morning at an apartment complex parking lot while he was on the ground were captured by police body camera video, according to the prosecutor, John Schneider.
And the suspect, Essa Kolareh Eugene Williams, was heard on the video saying before he opened fire that we would be going back to jail, Schneider said at a court hearing for Williams Tuesday night. Schneider did not say whether the body cam video was from Moldovan.
A police probable-cause statement said Moldovan, 22, suffered up to eight gunshot wounds, including one to his head, and was hospitalized on life support. Moldovan’s condition on Wednesday was “still extremely critical,” the police department said in an email.
He was shot early Tuesday morning as officers searched for the driver of one of several cars reportedly driving erratically nearby.
Other officers arrested Williams on charges that included attempted first-degree murder, according to a police statement and court records. A judge ordered Williams held for lack of $3 million cash bond.
Williams “continued to shoot the officer even after the officer was on the ground,” Schneider said.
The prosecutor added: “He’s heard on body camera before the crimes occurred, saying something like he was going back to jail. A short time later he shot at police presumably to avoid any apprehension.”
Williams made the comment about going to jail while speaking on the phone to somebody as Moldovan approached, the police probable-cause statement said.
Asked by Moldovan whether he had any weapons, Williams said he didn’t but then “produced a handgun from his waist area, raised it at the officer and fired multiple times,” the statement said.
After Moldovan fell to the ground and was shot again, Williams dropped his gun and tried unsuccessfully to yank the unresponsive officer’s handgun from his holster and then fought with a second officer before being arrested with the help of a third officer, the statement said.
No defense attorney participated in the hearing for Williams and court records did not list one who could speak on his behalf.
Williams has nine prior felony convictions, including ones for armed robbery, aggravated assault and endangerment, the probable-cause statement said. Williams was sentenced to multiple prison terms in 2017 and was released in 2020, Arizona corrections department records show.