As Scottsdale police paid tribute Wednesday morning to a sergeant killed in the line of duty three years ago, this week’s shooting death of a Phoenix police officer weighed heavily on the minds of officers.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of officer David Uribe as well as the men and women of the Phoenix Police Department," said Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell at the ceremony for Sgt. Thomas Hontz. "They will require support and fellowship day to day."
Uribe was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on Tuesday. Police were still looking for two suspects Wednesday.
National Police Week, an annual time to honor fallen police officers, runs May 15-21.
Hontz was killed in the explosion of a gas ax, an instrument that delivers gas or smoke into a building, during a training exercise in 2002. Hontz was the first Scottsdale officer to die in the line of duty in the 50 years since the department began. The city was fined $7,000 by the Arizona division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration after the explosion.
Scottsdale police detective Sam Bailey, who worked with Hontz in the 1980s, said he reminisced with Hontz about their days working in vice and narcotics on the day of the accident. Because Bailey worked days and Hontz worked nights, they rarely got a chance to chat, Bailey said.
"I was pretty thankful for that given the circumstances later that day," Bailey said.
Hontz was a founding member of the SWAT team and was recognized internationally for his tactics expertise, Rodbell said.
Cmdr. Barry Vassall, who is also interim deputy chief in personnel development and investigative services, described Hontz as wellrespected among members of the department.
"He was very dedicated to his profession," said Vassall, who worked with him in patrol. "There wasn’t a task he wouldn’t take on."
Scottsdale burglary detective Ron Lugay said Hontz was his SWAT and defensive tactics trainer during in-service training.
"He had a reputation of stressing the importance of training," Lugay said. "He taught us all how to become better officers and safer officers."