Legal Reference

Trigger happy cops never make mistakes? Yea sure!

Cops identified the wrong guy in Chandler mall shooting

Cops never make mistakes? Yea sure! But that's what they want juries to think. In the case the cops identified the wrong guy as the gunman in the shooting at a Chandler mall!

The cops thought the shooter was Daniel Perez, when he actually was Adam Hernandez.

If they can screw up in a major case like this they certainly can screw up in minor cases and charge the wrong person with a crime.


Chandler mall shooting: Police clear up details

Jan. 7, 2011 02:59 PM

The Arizona Republic/12 News Breaking News Team

Within hours after the standoff ended at a Chandler mall this week, authorities said they had confirmed that only one man was involved in the ordeal. The man detectives began surveilling at a Mesa apartment complex Wednesday morning was the same one who surrendered peacefully at about 3 p.m. at a Baja Fresh restaurant north of the mall.

After arresting Adam Hernandez, 27, of Chandler, police said he told them in detail how he exchanged gunfire with officers in the mall parking lot, eluded detectives as they surrounded the mall and fled across Chandler Boulevard to the Baja Fresh. His account helped authorities determine that that Daniel Perez, the man police originally thought they were pursuing, did not take part.

Perez, 24, of Casa Grande, had been arrested in December on suspicion of shooting at Department of Public Safety officers and was mistakenly freed from jail in Pinal County on Dec. 16.

Here are key questions and answers about Wednesdays shootout - what authorities know, and what they are still trying to find out. The "answers" are based on police and court documents.

Question: Why did police think Perez was the man shooting at police in the mall parking lot?

Answer: Detectives from various East Valley agencies had been investigating several armed robberies and other felony crimes involving a man who drove a stolen Kia Sorrento sports utility vehicle. An eyewitness to one of the robberies identified Perez as the robber.

On Wednesday, detectives from the U.S. Marshal Task Force and other agencies learned that the SUV had been spotted at a Mesa apartment complex. Detectives located the vehicle and saw a man who looked like Perez get into it. Detectives followed the vehicle to the Chandler Fashion Center. Based on the eyewitness account to the robbery and that the Kia driver looked like Perez, authorities believed he was the man shooting at police.

Q. When did detectives conclude that Adam Hernandez, not Perez, was the man involved in the shootings?

A. Hernandez' identity was determined before he was arrested at the Baja Fresh, but authorities still believed another suspect might have been in the mall. It remained closed for two more hours as officers continued their search. They found no other suspect, and the mall reopened at 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, it became clear as detectives questioned Hernandez and an assortment of witnesses that he was the same man who had been pursued since detectives spotted the SUV Wednesday morning.

Q. Why do police believe Hernandez began shooting at them if he wasn't the man they were after?

A. Police reports say that during the interview, Hernandez acknowledged that he was on the run from police because of a 2010 probation violation. He had been released from prison in 2009 and would have returned to prison had he been found responsible for the violation. Police also said he had a long record of violent behavior dating back to his childhood.

Q. If Perez wasn't at the mall on Wednesday, where is he?

A. Authorities still don't know, and are continuing their manhunt for him.

Q. Where did the suspect's SUV come from?

A. The vehicle had been stolen at gunpoint from an elderly woman during a robbery on Nov. 18.

Q. A helicopter quickly became involved in the pursuit of Hernandez before he got to the mall. Did it just happen to be in the area?

A. Yes. The helicopter was working an unrelated armed robbery nearby.

Q. Was anybody injured in the shootout?

A. No. Bullets hit an officer's vehicle in the mall parking lot and were fired at another detective pursuing the suspect on foot. [Hmmm so one group of trigger happy cops shot another group of trigger happy cops!] Shots also were fired from the Baja Fresh, but no one was hit. Three hostages taken at the Baja Fresh were released without injury.

Q. What happened to the gun the suspect was shooting?

A. A 40 caliber semi-automatic handgun was located inside the restaurant after Hernandez was taken into custody.

Q. What details in Hernandez' statement made detectives believe he was the only one involved in the shootings?

A. Court documents say he gave investigators a highly detailed account of how he ran from the parking lot to the mall, back to the parking lot, through the mall again, then north across Chandler Boulevard to the Baja Fresh. The account coincided with observations of detectives, who said he yelled at them during the pursuit, threatening to "shoot them in the head" and telling them to "get back, I'm serious." The court records say Hernandez's statement and the officers' observations were confirmed by other witnesses in and near the mall and the restaurant.