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DPS releases more footage from trooper-involved shooting in Phoenix

Search for driver in DPS shooting
Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-10 18:21:39-04

PHOENIX — Arizona Department of Public Safety has released more video of a trooper-involved shooting last month in Phoenix as they continue a suspect search.

It raises new questions about whether the teenage suspect knew a DPS trooper was in the vehicle and if the shooting should be considered an 'ambush.'

The suspect driver and vehicle are still unaccounted for after the incident on Sept. 17 near 35th Avenue and Roosevelt Street.

One suspect, 17-year-old Luis German Espinoza Acuna, was taken into custody at the scene of the incident.

The video released Friday shows the suspect vehicle stopping to meet with an individual in another car to get weapons before the shooting occurred.

Video also shows the moments when Acuna got out of the suspect vehicle and fired a shot at a trooper, who then returned fire.

The nearby home's surveillance camera does not capture the moment that Acuna allegedly raises his AK-47 pistol, known as a Draco, at the trooper. But when he does, the trooper wearing a black bulletproof vest, opens his door and pops up, pointing his gun at armed Acuna.

Not a second later, Acuna opens fire at the trooper. Narrowly hitting his front and side windows, on both sides of the trooper.

"Our trooper was clearly visible, in his vest that said police. There is no question that it was an ambush, and he was identifiable as a police officer," said Col. Heston Silbert, the director of DPS, back on September 17th, hours after the shooting.

The trooper quickly returned fire. It appears another trooper popped off some rounds as well. ABC15's cameras captured more than 15 evidence markers at the scene, but DPS refused to say how many shots were fired by both sides in the residential neighborhood.

Almost immediately after the shooting, Acuna tosses the gun on the ground and scurries behind a brick wall for cover. He quickly throws his hands up and lays face down in a prone position, before troopers ever get close to him.

His mother was not home when ABC15 tried to talk with her, but neighbors say Acuna's mom was hysterical about what happened and insisted her son had no idea a law enforcement officer was in the car.

A close neighbor told ABC15 that given the dark windows, the unmarked vehicle, and the amount of time Acuna looked at the trooper before firing, "there is no chance he knew he was shooting police," said the woman.

Acuna's attorney, Andrew Blischak, has the same story from the teen.

"It was a total spontaneous event. It was not an ambush," said Blischak. "There were unrelated events that precipitated what happened in this case, and they were completely unrelated to Arizona DPS."

Despite all the information they have released, the DPS Public Information Team would not say what Acuna told investigators, specifically whether or not he knew who was in the vehicle.

As the gunfire starts to subside, Acuna's associate drives off in the silver Infinity.

DPS says they are still actively investigating the shooting and are still looking for the suspect driver and vehicle. It's believed to be a 2008-2013 Infiniti sedan with temporary plates, but is now likely with a permanent license plate.

If you recognize the suspect or vehicle, please call 911. You may also submit a tip online at azdps.gov/tips.