It was a busy year for city police and fire personnel, with a particularly active month of March. Here are the highlights — and lowlights — from 2022:
Gunshots at candlelight vigil: They came in the twilight to remember a Maricopa teen who was stabbed to death on Jan. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. But as friends and family of Kristopher Mickell gathered for a candlelight vigil in his memory, gunfire rang out in the parking lot.
No injuries were reported, and an initial investigation found the gunfire stemmed from five teenagers firing into the air.
Body found: A Maricopa resident doing some morning exploring in the southeast part of the city found the body of a woman in an abandoned palm orchard. The dead woman, found near North Anderson Road and Santa Cruz Wash, was identified as Renise Garcia, 25, whose last known address was in Casa Grande.
Trouble comes to town: The drug deal gone bad started in Tempe and ended in Maricopa. Two people — Isaiah Williams, 18, and Saif Woods, 17 — met a man — Chris McCrimmon, 21 — in the parking lot at IKEA. During the transaction, an altercation began, and shots rang out, Tempe police said. McCrimmon fell to the ground, and Williams and Woods jumped into a Ford Expedition and headed for Maricopa. As they drove south on State Route 347, a Gila River police officer spotted the vehicle and began tailing it.
A Maricopa officer joined the tail as the suspects’ SUV turned into Senita and stopped in the 43000 block of West Wild Horse Trail. At that time, the Maricopa officer took command of the tense scene, displaying his weapon and giving commands, until additional officers arrived to arrest and handcuff the suspects. McCrimmon died from his injuries, and Williams and Woods were charged by Tempe police with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
Food bank fire: The Maricopa Pantry in Hidden Valley was decimated by fire, leaving hundreds of families looking for a source of food. The fire started in a trailer at the food bank and spread despite a volunteer’s efforts to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. There were no injuries, but three trailers used to store food were lost.
It was a crushing blow for founder Jim Shoaf, who was down but definitely not out. Within three weeks, he had secured three replacement trailers through the beneficence of St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix. Food distribution resumed at the site within days. He would say of the immediate community response: “You know, this city has reached out in more ways than I could think of reaching out. I mean every one of our needs are being met.”
The fire’s legacy may end up being a new, permanent structure at the site. Shoaf started working on a plan shortly after the blaze.
Family scare: The 911 caller said his father was pointing a gun at his mother. The emergency operator could hear gunshots in the background before the call disconnected. As police traveled to the home in Maricopa Meadows, there was a second call from the reporting party: His father was in the kitchen, he said, and then gunfire and screaming. “Please hurry.”
But this wasn’t a violent domestic incident; it was a swatting, a criminal harassment tactic of falsely reporting a serious emergency — a murder or hostage situation, for example — to trigger an emergency response, often involving a SWAT team, to a person’s address.
Luckily, police were able to ascertain it was a false report before the family living at the home or officers got hurt. Police said they were taking the incident “extremely seriously,” but it is unknown if an arrest was ever made in the case.
God made him do it: A man who allegedly used his vehicle to intentionally crash into another on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway told police he was acting on orders from God. The motorist was charged in the incident, which left both cars on their sides near White and Parker Road. One of the vehicles struck a power pole and line that collapsed and fell near the vehicles. The victims were a husband and his wife, who was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries. Witnesses said they believed the man was driving at speeds in excess of 100 mph before striking the other vehicle.
Train vs. truck: A Union Pacific train struck a stuck semi-truck west of Maricopa. The truck’s trailer — laden with farm equipment — apparently did not have enough clearance as it crossed over the tracks at North Ralston Road at State Route 238, and became firmly lodged, police said. A westbound train struck the trailer, but no injuries were reported.
Shots fired at busy intersection: A police pursuit erupted into a gunfight between the driver and officers on a Sunday evening at one of the city’s busiest crossroads. Incredibly, no one was killed, even though a news station reported counting more than 27 bullet holes in the windshield, driver’s side window and body of the suspect’s car.
The incident started with a reported stabbing on West Sanders Way in Homestead before the suspect turned his Toyota Scion south on North Porter Road. Followed by police, the man drove straight through the intersection at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway as a moving train blocked Porter. When his vehicle struck a white SUV, the suspect “stuck his hand out the door, with the gun in it, and started shooting,” reported an eyewitness, who was stopped at the light waiting for the train to pass. Police then returned fire.
The injured suspect, later identified by police as Michael Zapata, crawled out of the passenger side of the vehicle and lay down on the ground. He was arrested, taken to a hospital for treatment and subsequently charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (domestic violence), kidnapping (domestic violence), aggravated assault. At least one other bystander was injured in the initial crash, but no officers were hurt.