Search continues for shooting suspect - East Valley Tribune: News

Search continues for shooting suspect

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Posted: Monday, April 7, 2003 11:48 pm

Scottsdale police on Monday searched Camelback Mountain unsuccessfully for a man suspected of gunning down his neighbor over the weekend during a fight over a barking dog.

The all-day manhunt continued amid questions concerning why police did not investigate an initial call Sunday about the barking dog.

Alan McMahon, 47, is suspected of shooting Michael Morris, 45, in the head in a field near the 8400 block of East Clarendon Avenue.

Police initially received a 911 call at 3:10 p.m. Sunday from the home at 8431 E. Clarendon, where Morris was visiting his brother. The caller asked police for help to settle a neighborhood dispute about a barking dog at the home. Morris’ brother owns the dog, a Rottweiler. Police did not respond to that call. At 4:25 p.m. Sunday, police received numerous 911 calls about the shooting.

On Monday, as police scoured the mountain’s southern slopes in search of McMahon, Scottsdale police Sgt. Doug Dirren said police had no reason to think the initial call about the barking dog dispute would turn violent. In such cases that aren’t a high priority, “it could be several hours (before officers arrive), depending on the severity of the other calls going on at the time,” Dirren said.

Scottsdale police did not respond to a Tribune request for Sunday’s dispatch logs, which would show the number and types of calls police were working on around the time of the barking dog dispute. Police also would not grant newspaper requests for a copy of a department policy that guides how calls are prioritized, or a transcript of the initial 911 call.

Police Chief Alan Rodbell could not cite the police department’s specific policy on when officers are sent on calls, but he did speak from more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement.

“Life-threatening” calls to police generally include actions in progress, such as a burglary, robbery, domestic violence or fight, he said. Barking dogs, traffic violations and others usually fall lower on the list.

“Barking dog complaints have traditionally been low-priority complaints,” Rodbell said.

The search for McMahon, an unemployed electrical technician, centered on Camelback Mountain after police found his 1990 white Dodge van abandoned at the mountain’s base in the 5500 block of East Wonderview Road. SWAT team members from Scottsdale and Phoenix also were involved.

The search started about 8 a.m. Monday and was called off about 3:30 p.m. when a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office bloodhound could not find McMahon’s trail.

McMahon is believed to be armed with a pistol and is considered dangerous, police said. He has no recent criminal history in Scottsdale, Dirren said. McMahon’s wife told police that her husband was “highly inebriated” before the shooting.

Five schools in the Scottsdale Unified School District were placed on lockdown and then on high alert while police searched for McMahon. A sixth school was on high alert, said Carol Hughes, district spokeswoman.

Morris’ body was found with a bullet wound to the head in a field between the house and a church, police said. Police began searching for McMahon, who lives next door at 8421 E. Clarendon with his wife and two children, police said. McMahon has sole custody of a son, 15, and daughter, 13, according to documents filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. In the suspect’s neighborhood near Indian School and Granite Reef roads, residents offered mixed opinions of McMahon.

“It’s kind of hard to believe because the guy who lives there is a really friendly guy,” David Vanderwal said of McMahon’s home. “Of all the homes on this block, the kids play there most.”

Vanderwal, 42, who has lived on the block since 1998, said he was unaware of a feud between the neighbors. He said Morris’ Rottweiler barks when people approach the home.

“It’s wild to think you could get shot over a dog,” he said.

One former resident of the neighborhood who requested anonymity because police consider McMahon armed and dangerous said Monday that McMahon and the Morrises had been involved in what he described as a running squabble.

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