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A young Navy veteran, who was almost finished with his Arizona Department of Public Safety (state patrol) field training, was killed in the line of duty Wednesday night. He reportedly died at the hands of a mentally ill man who grabbed the training officer’s service weapon. The officers put their own lives at risk, to close with and secure a young, black, male pedestrian, who was reportedly wandering on and off of I-10.
The first officer to respond to the report of a pedestrian on the interstate immediately called for backup. The backup unit was Trooper Tyler Edenhofer, who had just graduated from the academy, and his training officer, Trooper Sean Rodecap. In the struggle, the 20-year-old pedestrian apparently grabbed Trooper Rodecap’s weapon, wounding the initial responding officer and fatally shooting Trooper Edenhofer.
“Today is evidence of the violent nature of policing in our nation,” [Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank] Milstead told reporters Thursday afternoon. “It’s also evidence that just because somebody is unarmed doesn’t mean they won’t become armed and harm somebody.”
The gun belonged to Rodecap, who had been training Edenhofer and was wearing a leather, nonretention holster with a snap top affixed to his belt — not a typical duty belt that includes a stronger internal locking feature. He was also dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans because Edenhofer was in the final days of training when instructors assume more of a bystander role and give more control to the trooper in training, DPS said.
No officers fired their weapons during the fight, officials said.
Officers moved forward, into danger, to stop a disturbed young man from endangering himself and others. They did not shelter and draw their weapons. They did not shoot. The struggle took several minutes. Yet, the suspect had no previous criminal record.
The man’s mother told authorities she thought her son was in the backyard of their home and had last seen him on a trampoline around 9:30 p.m., Milstead said.
Milstead said, “He has mental health history. He apparently was on medication for anxiety and depression.”
The Arizona Republic stories name the fallen officer’s mother and sister, while also reporting he was planning to marry. So, at least three women’s lives have been tragically altered by madness. The fallen officer died trying to get control of a man who was not in control of himself.
As the DPS and Arizona, mourn and honor this young hero, the appropriate review will sort through actions and procedures. There is no story here of a suspect buying a gun. The state legislature, and possibly Congress, should look at this case as another instance of our mental health system failing.