When Chandler police Detective Carlos Ledesma was killed during an undercover drug operation, the tragic news reached a Midwestern town where the 34-year-old former Marine, husband and father of two young sons began his career in law enforcement.
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ledesma completed training with the Spirit Lake, Iowa Police Department where he acquired his first job as a patrol officer in May 2004, according to Lt. Rodney Baker of the department.
"We were shocked to hear it and upset," Baker said of Ledesma's death. "He was a good officer."
Ledesma was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds at St. Joseph Medical Center in downtown Phoenix soon after he was shot about 7 p.m. July 28 inside a south Phoenix home during an undercover drug deal gone wrong, according to authorities. Two other Chandler police officers also were shot and two of the suspects were killed, according to Phoenix police. The dead suspects were identified as Markiese Royalty, 26, and Roger Tatum, 32.
The officers, who were staging a sale of $250,000 worth of marijuana inside a home in the 2300 block of West Maldonado Road near 24th Street and Baseline Road, were not wearing bullet proof vests, according to Phoenix police.
Six suspects accused of being involved in the drug deal have criminal histories, and five of them are being held in a Maricopa County jail, each on a $3 million bond.
Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley announced on Tuesday that the suspects, Doarnell Jackson, believed to be responsible for shooting Ledesma, according to Romley; Jerry Wayne Cockhearn Jr.; Eldridge Gittens; Thandika Singleton and John Webber, have been charged with 11 felony counts, including first-degree murder, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery and weapons and drug-related offenses, according to court records.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Romley refused to answer questions involving the case, but did say his office plans to propose new legislation involving mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of prohibited possession of weapons. Being convicted felons, Jackson and Gittens were prohibited from carrying weapons, according to Romley.
"This is a very difficult time for all of us in law enforcement," Romley said. "We will make sure justice is done."
Baker, who oversees the patrol officers in Spirit Lake, an Iowa town of about 5,500 with a police force of nine in the northwest corner of Iowa, said that in his 25 years of law enforcement, Ledesma is the first officer he has personally known to be killed.
Ledesma completed his training with the Spirit Lake Police Academy, and was hired by the city on May 3, 2004.
Baker said he decided to hire Ledesma because of his military experience and how he handled himself during the job interview.
"It was his military training that stuck out and the way he handled himself during the job interview," Baker said. "He seemed sure of himself."
But Ledesma also had aspirations to serve on a police department in a bigger city.
"Like anywhere else, we have problems with drunk driving, domestic violence, drugs and shootings," Baker said. "There's just more of it in a bigger city."
Ledesma's last day with the Spirit Lake Police Department was on Sept. 19, 2006.
Public services for Chandler Detective Carlos Ledesma
Tuesday: Viewing, beginning at 6 p.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.
Wednesday: Funeral services, 10 a.m., Mission Community Church, 4450 E. Elliot Road, Gilbert, with burial following in Valley of the Sun Cemetery, 10940 E. Chandler Heights Blvd., Chandler.
The procession will begin immediately following church services about 11 a.m. as follows:
• Leaving the church, 4450 E. Elliot Road, Gilbert, the procession will travel eastbound on Elliot Road to Power Road, south on Power Road to the San Tan Freeway (202) westbound.
• Westbound on the San Tan Freeway (Loop 202) to Arizona Avenue.
• South on Arizona Avenue to Chandler Heights Road, then west on Chandler Heights Road to Valley of the Sun Mortuary and Cemetery, 10940 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler.
NOTE: It is estimated the travel time from the church to the cemetery will take about 35 minutes. This procession may last for nearly two hours. People who are not attending may want to avoid these areas during this time as traffic will likely be heavily congested.