The husband of a driver caught in the middle of a wild police shootout on Interstate 17 last week is challenging the actions of state troopers and believes the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s director isn’t being honest about what happened.
“I’m questioning what they did and why they did it at that time,” said David Opstein. “No doubt this person needed to be stopped, needed to be apprehended. What didn’t need to happen was a shootout in rush hour traffic in the middle of the freeway.”
Opstein’s wife ended up right behind troopers and police involved in the October 29 gunfight with Arnaldo Caraveo, who was shooting at officers with a fully-automatic M16 rifle.
Dash camera video from her car captured the violent scene.
Opstein reached out to ABC15 after seeing the station’s interview with DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead, who said his troopers' actions were incredibly proper.
“Well after I saw your interview with Col. Milstead, I knew for a fact that what he was saying was not what happened,” he said. “And I don’t think what they did was in the name of public safety. I think somebody should be held accountable or at least maybe admit something was done the right way, so it doesn’t happen again.”
In a tense interview, Milstead told ABC15 that his troopers’ actions were necessary to stop a man whose violent actions were escalating.
“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.
But Opstein said his wife’s dash camera shows there was no traffic break performed by troopers and that the suspect was driving calmly with the rest of rush-hour traffic.
On Wednesday, he provided ABC15 with extended footage from the dash camera.
It shows a five-minute period between when the suspect’s car is first spotted and the trooper’s decision to spin out the truck, prompting the suspect to open fire.
“DPS is following him for miles and miles and miles without him doing anything at all,” Opstein said. “Nothing had escalated.”
The video also shows multiple marked DPS and unmarked Mesa police vehicles closely following the suspect, who officials knew was armed stemming from a disturbance call in Mesa.
“None of the marked vehicles had their lights or sirens on. No one knew they were at any risk at all,” he said.
Milstead bristled at ABC15’s questions asking why it was necessary for troopers to intervene at the time and place they did without creating a safer buffer for drivers.
“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.
Opstein sees it differently.
“I’d like to see some accountability,” he said. “Because if this is justified and this is standard operating procedure and how they go around doing things, someone is going to get killed. Thank god my wife is OK. Thank god everyone else is OK.”
Caraveo was killed in the shootout.
Phoenix police are investigating the criminal case stemming from the incident. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said it is also reviewing the incident internally.
Those investigations will take months to complete, officials said.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at email@example.com.