Officer cleared in car thief shooting death - East Valley Tribune: News

Officer cleared in car thief shooting death

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Posted: Sunday, November 2, 2003 5:38 am | Updated: 2:08 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The internal investigation into a police shooting 18 months ago clears a Scottsdale officer of violating policy in the death of a suspected car thief.

But the recently released 250-page report says officers may have created the situation for the April 19, 2002, death of Robert David Gregory in a Tempe parking lot.

Detective Scott Carpenter, a member of the High Enforcement Arrest Team, said he fired his rifle three times into Gregory’s 1994 Nissan Altima when it appeared about to run down another officer.

That officer, detective Mike Hanafin, said he ran in front of the Altima to get away from Carpenter’s rifle, which was pointed in his direction.

Hanafin said he wasn’t immediately worried about being run over by Gregory, who was moving his car back and forth to escape the undercover police vehicles that caged him in a Tempe parking lot at McClintock Drive and Baseline Road.

When Hanafin darted in front of it, the Altima was in reverse, he said.

"My first thought is the line of fire," he told investigators.

Carpenter shot immediately before or after the Altima broke free and drove over a median, according to officers’ statements. The car slowed then suddenly accelerated, "like a slingshot," through a Mobil gas station into the intersection where it collided with three vehicles. Gregory, a known methamphetamine user with a history of theft, was found slumped in the car. A passenger in the car had disappeared.

One of Carpenter’s .223-caliber bullets hit Gregory in the head. Another hit the car. The third went over the Altima into a parked car.

"Did it at all run through your head that Mike (Hanafin) was in your field of fire at any point?" one investigator asked Carpenter.

"He was," Carpenter replied.

The internal report details a series of foul-ups during a daylong attempt to arrest Gregory, including two innocent people being handcuffed, poor planning, a lost informant and the late arrival of the team’s sergeant. It was Carpenter, not the sergeant, who ordered other team members to move in on Gregory in the parking lot.

"I have two concerns with the incident," wrote Scottsdale Cpl. Wesley Infiesto, one investigator. "The first being did we create the exigency of the situation by virtue of Detective Hanafin running in the direction he did.

"The second concern would be did Detective Carpenter ‘see’ the suspect when he indexed his rifle prior to and during the actual shooting or did Detective Carpenter just fire into the driver side/driver seat compartment."

Gregory’s parents say Carpenter targeted their son because of a feud that started when the two attended Saguaro High School together. They filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, which was dismissed Oct. 15.

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