In the early morning of May 12, 2014, Officer Brandon Mendoza was hit and killed by a wrong-way driver who drove for 23 minutes, spanning 30 miles on multiple Valley freeways. Mendoza was a Mesa police officer on his way home after a late shift.
The maps, 911 calls, and dispatch audio presented in this piece offer an unprecedented minute-by-minute look as officers tried to track down wrong-way driver Raul Silva-Corona. DPS Director Frank Milstead said stopping a wrong-way driver is the most difficult challenge his officers face. Mendoza’s mother, Maryann, who’s suing the state, calls DPS’s response that night a “bungled mess.”
Using GPS data for DPS vehicles, a detailed dispatch log, and locations given in dozens of 911 calls, the positions of the officers and wrong-way driver were estimated and unified into this map.
The map spans from 12:34 a.m., when the first 911 call is placed, to 1:04 a.m., approximately 7 minutes after the crash occurs.
In the map, the wrong-way driver is designated as a red dot, while the blue dots are DPS officers.
The officers are identified by their vehicle call letters (i.e. C313, E621, etc.).
WARNING: Some 911 calls contain explicit language.
Continue through to each passage of time or jump ahead by clicking on the links below
12:34 - 12:40 a.m
At 12:34 a.m., the first 911 call comes in to DPS dispatch.
The caller reports that a driver “whizzed by me pretty fast” going north in the southbound lanes of Loop 101 in the area of Thunderbird and Cactus. During the first six minutes, five 911 calls come in.
The second call, also made at 12:34, says that the driver is “all over the road” and almost hit two cars. The wrong-way driver continues on Loop 101 as it curves from the North to the West. He’s seen by witnesses exiting Loop 101 onto State Route 51.
A handful of officers begin searching for the driver. DPS reaches out to see if Phoenix police can assist with a helicopter, which isn’t available, to help pinpoint the driver’s location. Scottsdale police are also notified.
One DPS officer begins heading north on Loop 101 in Scottsdale. Two more DPS officers, located near State Route 143, head east on Loop 202 towards Loop 101 in south Scottsdale. By the time they get to Loop 101, the driver is now starting to head south on the 51.
A fourth DPS officer begins heading west on Loop 202 from east Mesa. A fifth DPS officer on I-17 doesn’t appear to start pursuing the driver. A sixth DPS officer appears to exit the I-10 at 24th Street at 12:40 a.m.
12:40 - 12:46 a.m.
During the next six minutes, the wrong-way driver, Silva-Corona, continues going south in the northbound lanes of SR51. There are six 911 calls that come in. The callers report that he “almost hit me” and that he’s “probably driving 90 m.p.h.”
Two DPS officers, one coming from Loop 101, and the other coming from I-17, reach SR 51 and start to head south to try and catch up to the driver (Those officers drive on the correct side of the freeway, records show).
This puts those two officers directly on Silva-Corona's trail, miles behind.
The two other DPS officers that started driving north on Loop 101 in south Scottsdale changes routes at 12:45. One turns to head south as the other exits the freeway altogether onto to side streets in Scottsdale, taking a more geographically direct path toward SR 51.
Another DPS officer continues to head west on Loop 202 toward SR 51, toward Silva-Corona's location. The sixth DPS officer, who exited the freeway, is parked at a DPS substation near I-10.
12:46 - 12:52 a.m.
From 12:46 to 12:52 a.m., a flurry of 911 calls pour in to dispatch.
The callers seem to report a driver who’s becoming more erratic.
During this six-minute stretch, the wrong-way driver continues south in the northbound lanes of SR 51 and then transitions onto I-10.
It’s during this timeframe, DPS gets their only real shot at stopping the driver before he crashes.
At 12:49, a DPS officer conducts a traffic break around the Thomas Road exit of SR 51. A DPS supervisor tells the officer to try and use a pit maneuver on the driver, but he misses.
In dispatch logs, the DPS officer said “passing me now…didn’t have enough time.”
The two DPS officers on SR 51 are still trying to catch up. The pair of DPS officers who changed routes on Loop 101 are trying to get back toward the action.
The sixth DPS officer is still parked at a substation.
12:52 - 12:58 a.m.
The wrong-way driver spends his final five minutes on the freeway traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-10.
In the final minutes, most of the DPS officers close in on the area but can’t get in front of the driver or catch up.
At 12:56 a.m., the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office helicopter radios DPS dispatch (jump to approximately 3:30) telling DPS they are up in the air, in the area, and available if they need help.
Dispatch logs show DPS did not appear to reach out to MCSO before this point.
At 12:57 a.m., the wrong-way driver hits Brandon Mendoza on the flyover ramp from I-10 to U.S. 60.
Both are killed.