Mesa math teacher Ryne Zahner killed in Tempe shooting, suspect sought

Posted at 1:01 PM, Jan 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 11:07:11-05

Police are continuing to investigate after a Mesa teacher was found shot and killed in a Tempe backyard Sunday morning.

Officers were patrolling the neighborhood near Mill Avenue and Baseline Road around 4 a.m. Sunday when they heard shots fired. They responded to the scene and found the body of Ryne Zahner. 

Several people inside the home at the time of the shooting reported seeing the suspect flee the area on foot, prompting police to launch an aerial and ground search. 

Police have identified the suspect as 27-year-old Caleb Bartels. He is described as a white male, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 165 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.  

Bartels is believed to be driving a 2007 silver Pontiac Grand Prix, license plate number BSK8972. 

Bartels should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information should call Tempe police or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS. Do not approach him under any circumstances.

A Mesa Public Schools spokesperson on Monday said Zahner was a respected math teacher at Mesa High School. The district is planning to have additional counselors at the campus on Tuesday morning for students and staff.

"The Zahner family is part of the Mesa Public Schools community and we send our thoughts and condolences to them during this difficult time," Communications Director Helen Hollands said in a statement.

According to Zahner's biography on the Mesa High School website, he was born in Illinois and attended Skyline High School, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. Zahner wrote that his focus was on creating a positive learning environment and said each student has the potential to accomplish their goals in life.