The Department of Public Safety director is standing by his troopers and applauding their effort after a pursuit ended in a wild shootout on the freeway in the middle of rush hour on Monday.
In an interview with ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing, the director also shared new details about the incident and bristled at questions about whether his troopers’ actions put the public at unnecessary risk.
“I would tell you it was completely heroic, what he did, and incredibly proper,” Col. Frank Milstead said.
Some of the new details:
- Suspect Arnaldo Caraveo had two M16 rifles in his possession (ABC15 previously revealed one of those rifles was a stolen MCSO weapon).
- Caraveo attempted to carjack or kidnap a woman at some point during the pursuit. Milstead said this fact was based on “preliminary information.”
- There were stop sticks on the road ahead of where the suspect was spun out by troopers. And troopers had created what’s called a traffic break between the pursuit and other drivers on the freeway.
“The trooper knew he had stop sticks up ahead of him. He had a traffic break behind him. And he knew this could be a good opportunity to make sure he controlled where this happened and not the bad guy,” Milstead said.
Once the trooper spun out the suspect’s truck, he opened fire on the troopers and Mesa Police officers using an automatic M15 rifle.
Police returned fire on Caraveo.
In traffic camera video, bullets can be seen whizzing into on-coming traffic.
“I’m not telling you it’s not a dangerous situation,” he said. “It is. There will be people that will criticize that decision. The men and the women in the field have to have the latitude to make those decisions in the field based on their training.”
Dash camera video obtained by ABC15 also appears to contradict Milstead’s claim that his troopers had executed a traffic break for the cars following the pursuit.
The video shows the suspect’s truck driving past several cars with multiple DPS units following closely behind.
None of the units had their lights or sirens on except for one vehicle who flashed its lights for a couple of seconds. No DPS or Mesa police vehicle appears to swerve back-and-forth ahead of drivers to create a safe space and distance between the pursuit.
The car with the dash camera comes to a stop just behind police vehicles with officers jumping out firing their weapons.
“The only thing that should have happened on this shootout on Monday was people should have stood up and applauded and said thank you for getting this madman off the road before he killed my wife, my son, my daughter,” Milstead said.
Earlier this year, ABC15 reported that the Arizona Department of Public Safety had shifted their pursuit policy and gave troopers broader discretion to engage in police pursuits.
The change in policy bucked an overwhelming national trend by law enforcement agencies that has police moving toward more tightly-restrictive pursuit policies.
While the new policy improves on some policy issues, experts said the change in policy would likely do little to reduce the number of dangerous pursuits in a state that already has the second-highest fatality rate for pursuits, according to a recent Department of Justice study.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.