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He fired nearly 100 rounds at Chandler police officers, now he's going to prison for 14 years

Zachary Rhodes, 27, could have faced multiple life sentences for an ambush last year that endangered several Valley police officers.
Credit: Chandler Police
One of the Chandler police vehicles that was struck by gunfire during an attack last year at an apartment complex.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — The 911 calls started flooding in at around midnight. 

It was March 24, 2020, and the residents of a Chandler apartment complex near Commonwealth Avenue and Hamilton Street have reported hearing a series of loud gunshots. 

Bullets begin piercing through the windows of nearby units and parked cars as officers race to get to the scene. 

Once they arrived, the chaos continued. Officers took cover as a series of bullets passed by them. 

They couldn't detect where the gunfire was coming from, so the officers weren't able to fire back to defend themselves. 

Nearly an hour would pass before 27-year-old Zachary Rhodes stopped firing and was taken into custody. Police reports show Rhodes told officers he had been "training for this his whole life." 

Up to 100 rounds of ammunition were fired during the attack and miraculously no one was seriously injured. 

On Friday, Rhodes was sentenced to 14 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to aggravated assault. 

Some felt the punishment was lenient, considering Rhodes had originally been charged with attempted murder. But a Maricopa County judge found Rhodes to be genuinely remorseful for his crimes and was worth being shown some mercy.

So many shell casings

More than a year has passed since the events of March 24 and the officers who responded to the scene that night are still traumatized by what they witnessed.  

Officer Zachary Odom can recall the sounds of constant gunfire bombarding him and his fellow officers. 

“I still envision that night filled with darkness, hearing nothing but bullets flying,” Odom said.

Sgt. Jeff DePodesta described the experience as like being stuck in the middle of a war zone. 

"There were several minutes during this event that I was scared that myself and several of my officers may not go home on this night," DePodesta wrote in a statement. 

The attack's aftermath left a scattered trail of evidence across the apartment complex that needed to be processed. 

Det. Cassandra Ynclan, a 21-year veteran of the agency, was assigned to investigate the case and said it took 18 hours to gather all the evidence.  

“This was by far the longest crime scene I have ever had to process," Ynclan said. "I didn’t even do the entirety of it.”

There were so many shell casings strewn about the complex that Ynclan ran out of evidence markers -- twice. 

Inside the defendant's apartment, investigators recovered more loaded rifle magazines and shell casings. 

“It is nothing short of a miracle that no one was greatly injured or killed due to Mr. Rhodes's actions,” another Chandler officer stated.

Ticking time bomb

At the time of his arrest, Rhodes was charged with numerous felonies that could have resulted in an incredibly long prison sentence.   

Prosecutor Ellen Dahl said the defendant could have been facing multiple life sentences if Rhodes was convicted on some of the charges. 

Dahl said this was the case of a "ticking time bomb" that was waiting to ignite at any moment on the unsuspecting community of Chandler.  

But the Maricopa County Attorney's Office decided to offer Rhodes an "extremely lenient" plea deal, she said, after considering some of the case's mitigating factors. 

Family members of Rhodes claim he's suffered from mental health issues that have gone on untreated for years. Court records show Rhodes has additionally struggled with alcohol abuse and had been drinking heavily in the weeks leading up to the attack.

'I am sorry'

In court on Friday, an emotional Rhodes apologized to each of the officers who could have been harmed by his actions. 

He also apologized to his family, his former neighbors, and anyone else who may have been hurt by his crimes.

“I apologize to the city of Chandler and to all its residents for disturbing the peace,” Rhodes said.

The defendant said he's been seeking treatment for his mental health problems while incarcerated and intends to continue rehabilitating himself once he's transferred to the Department of Corrections. 

Rhodes' plea deal states he must serve between 10 and 16 years in prison, which allowed Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Fish to determine the exact length of his sentence.  

Though Fish found Rhodes to be remorseful for the attack, the judge felt the case's aggravated factors slightly outweighed the mitigating circumstances.

Fish said the defendant's 14-year sentence is ultimately just a number, but it is still meant to represent the severity of what Rhodes did to the community that day.

“Unfortunately, if someone is willing to shoot at police officers, they’re willing to shoot at anybody,” the judge told Rhodes.    

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