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Brothers arrested for ‘ambush-style’ attack on Phoenix police officers

The shooting in the last in three months were 7 officers have been shot and 12 have been injured in the line of duty in similar ‘targeted’ attacks.

PHOENIX — Two brothers have been arrested after Phoenix police officers were shot at and injured Sunday morning in what authorities are investigating as an "ambush-style attack."

"We are looking into whether or not this was a planned attack on our officers," said Sgt. Ann Justus, a spokesperson for the department.

Two patrol cars were shot 18 times after officers attempted to stop a vehicle after a traffic violation, court records show.

One officer was shot in the wrist and another injured with glass. Since being released from the hospital, they are expected to make full recoveries.

This shooting is the latest one in three months, where a total of seven officers have been shot, and 12 others have been injured in the line of duty in Phoenix.

"This kind of violence within our community and toward police officers cannot become the new normal," said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams following the incident.

Since 2017, assaults against police officers have increased 31% in Phoenix, the department said.

What led up to the shooting

At about 1 a.m. on Mar. 13, two officers were parked at QT near 19th and Glendale avenues when they ran the license plate of a white 2008 Chevrolet station wagon as part of a routine check, police said.

The check came back with a felony warrant for the car's owner, but when officers attempted to approach the vehicle, it took off.

The driver of that car, later identified as 18-year-old Javon Michael Beasley, drove west on Glendale Avenue and sped through several red lights as officers tried to stop it, police said.

Officers lost sight of the vehicle but located it near 27th and Maryland avenues. By this point, authorities said that two patrol cars were following behind the suspected vehicle driven by Beasley.

"When [the driver] turned into the neighborhood, he started to drive much slowly and deliberately; that's when officers were shot at," said Sgt. Justice.

Court records show officers were shot at nearly 18 times by a person standing outside an apartment complex. That shooter was later identified as 28-year-old Devonte Martez Thornton, Beasley's older brother

Bullets from the gunfire struck the second patrol car. The officer in the passenger seat was shot in the wrist, and his partner was wounded in the eye by shattered glass.

"That body-worn camera is chilling," Sgt. Justus said. "The officer's partner helped get a tourniquet on his arm, he took him to safety, and they transported him to the hospital."

Police later arrested Beasley north of the shooting scene after running from the car. A Glock handgun was found in the complex's parking lot in Beasley's path of foot travel.

Brothers arrested

After the shooting, detectives found evidence at the scene that indicated the shooter was standing on the north side of Maryland Avenue in front of an apartment complex near 27th Avenue.

Court records allege Thornton was tracking and shooting at police officers as they were passing by outside the apartment complex where he lives and where he was later arrested on an unrelated felony warrant.

Within minutes of the shooting, a witness saw Thornton enter his apartment with what they believed to be a handgun tucked into his waistband, police said.

Thornton was allegedly frantic and asked that witness for bleach, records said.

Another witness arrived at the apartment, and Thornton gave them the bottom half of a disassembled gun and asked them to put it away for him, court documents show.

Thornton went to the apartment of an acquaintance in the same complex and remained there until he was contacted there by police.

Witnesses told police Thornton changed clothes after arriving home after the shooting and before going to the other apartment.

The paperwork said that investigators found a dark-colored backpack in the apartment where Thornton was arrested. Inside the bag, police said they found the receiver bottom half of a handgun, with the same characteristics as the trigger that the first witness saw.

In Thornton's apartment, detectives found a gun slide top part of a gun was found inside a bag containing his clothes. They also said they found two galaxy phones.

A preliminary examination of the slide found in Thornton's apartment compared to the casings found at the scene showed there was an association between the slide and casing, court records said.

During an interview with detectives, Thornton said he was asleep at the time of the shooting and denied owning a gun and a cellphone, police said.

Authorities said Thornton could not explain why some of his belongings were found in a backpack with gun parts.

Court records said investigators learned Thornton was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon, as a felony, and placed on probation for two years on Sept. 2, 2014, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Police discovered Thornton had an extraditable felony warrant from the U.S. Marshals Service through the USMS East in St. Louis office, they arrested him on this charge.

Planned attack?

The brothers were talking on the phone at the time of the shooting, police said.

"We are trying to determine [if this was] a result of a phone call and trying to get someone to come out and shoot at our officers," said. Sgt. Justus. "That's certainly something we're looking into."

When Beasley initially avoided the traffic stop and sped away from officers, police said he was driving "at a high rate of speed" but when the suspect drove by the apartment complex, where he lived with his brother, authorities said he went "much more slowly and deliberately," making the department think the officers were possibly ambushed.

Investigators found data on Beasley's phone that he was on an 8-minute-outgoing phone call to a subject listed as "Big Bra" at the time of the shooting, court records show.

Police said Beasley admitted he was on the phone with someone, but when police asked him, they said he would not answer who the person on the other side of the call was.

After interviewing witnesses, officers learned the phone number was Thornton's, records said.

"Eighteen rounds fired at someone who is trying to protect citizens is uncalled for; the violence against Phoenix police, the ambush attacks, cannot be the new normal," Sgt. Justus said. "This has to stop."

2022 Valley Police Shootings: 

Below is a map of all of the reported incidents where Valley police officers have shot civilians or have been shot by civilians in 2022. 

12 News will continue to update the map as more police-involved shooting are reported throughout the year.

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Arrestan a hermanos por ataque 'estilo emboscada' contra policías de Phoenix

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