EL MIRAGE, AZ — An El Mirage man is accused of targeting law enforcement over the span of four months and allegedly shooting at deputies or officers who were either responding to calls or conducting investigations, police said. That same suspect is also accused of flying a drone over police scenes.
Remarkably, no officers were injured in any of the reported shootings, which primarily happened in or around El Mirage, about 40 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix.
The first incident happened on August 12, 2021, when 38-year-old Saul Ballardo is accused of firing three times at an MCSO deputy who was on a call in the area of the Agua Fria Bridge along Grand Avenue.
A gray Honda Accord matching Ballardo’s vehicle was observed on the deputy’s body camera video traveling eastbound on Grand Avenue when a gunshot was heard. Minutes later, the same vehicle is seen traveling westbound on Grand when two more gunshots were heard.
On the night of October 25, 2021, police say Ballardo fired a single time at an ADOT enforcement captain who was working as security for a business in the Youngtown area.
Ballardo is allegedly seen parking his Honda at a QT parking lot near 113th and Grand avenues and having a brief conversation with the fully uniformed captain before firing a single gunshot in her direction. The gunshot, which hit the QT building, was tested by a DPS crime lab and later determined to be from a stolen weapon eventually located in Ballardo’s possession.
On the evening of October 27, 2021, a DPS trooper was on a call near 113th and Grand avenues with lights activated on his vehicle when the driver’s side door of his vehicle was shot a single time. That bullet was sent to a crime lab and determined to be connected to the same stolen weapon used in the October 25 incident by Ballardo.
Ballardo’s cell phone data allegedly put him in this location at the time of the shooting, according to court paperwork.
On the night of December 27, 2021, Ballardo allegedly shot at five El Mirage police officers who were conducting a traffic stop near El Mirage Road and Grand Avenue. The group of officers says they heard several bullets fly over their heads in close proximity. Shot-spotting devices reported three gunshots in the area at 8:43 p.m.
GPS data from Ballardo’s phone allegedly placed him in the location of the shooting at that time.
Ballardo was observed a short time after the December 27 shooting acting suspiciously outside his nearby home and hiding behind trees. He is then seen flying a drone in the area getting dangerously close to a DPS helicopter.
Officers in the area report being watched by a drone at incidents in the past.
On the night of December 30, 2021, Ballardo allegedly shot at El Mirage officers again as they were responding to an active alarm call near Thompson Ranch Road and Grand Avenue.
Officers reported hearing four separate shots fired in close proximity to them and saw a drone flying nearby a short time later.
Again, the drone was identified as being flown by Ballardo and being dangerously close to a DPS helicopter that responded to the shooting area.
El Mirage officers were able to track the drone to Ballardo’s home and Ballardo was taken into custody. Police say shell casings, the stolen handgun, and two drones were located at his home all connected to these shootings.
Court documents state that Ballardo’s actions and the threat of danger to officers in the area caused officers to stop making regular traffic stops and even forced a holiday DUI task force to be shut down early.
No officers were injured in any of the shootings involving Ballardo.
Ballardo faces charges including attempted murder, five counts of terrorism, six counts of discharging a firearm in city limits, 13 counts of aggravated assault, and 13 counts of aggravated assault on an officer.