William Coleman, 50, deputy to controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, was shot and killed on Sunday while responding to a burglary call in Phoenix.
The suspect, a 40-year-old man who deputies found in a van behind a medical building around 4 a.m., opened fire right away, killing Coleman. His partner returned fire and killed the suspect, The Associated Press reported.
Arpaio said he was eager to investigate the suspect’s background for clues as to “what caused him to come out shooting.”
Officials were investigating whether the shooting was the work of the same criminal responsible for a double murder in Sedona, Arizona on Friday morning.
Coleman’s death is the latest in a string of bad news for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which found itself accused last May of refusing to investigate hundreds of sex crime allegations to protect one of their investigators from bad publicity.
The department saw even more bad news when federal investigators announced the conclusion of a long-term probe of Sheriff Arpaio’s operation, often cited as one of the toughest cop shops in the country. The Justice Department said Arpaio had fostered a “chronic culture of disregard” and “bias” at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, noting that he had personally distributed racially charged hate speech in letters and emails.
They also claimed that the department had a history of targeting Latinos for traffic stops on roadways, and individuals who filed formal complaints were routinely retaliated against. Investigators additionally claimed they discovered a pattern of immigration sweeps based upon racially charged tips that did not describe any particular criminal activity.
They also found that roughly one-fifth of officers’ traffic stop searches were likely conducted in violation of the subjects’ constitutional rights. Similarly, in jails run by the department, Latino prisoners are often neglected and abused, the Justice Department said.
Arpaio has since agreed to cooperate with the Feds’ investigation.
Photo: Flickr user crazyad0boy.