The hunt for a fugitive led to a shootout Wednesday at Chandler Fashion Center, followed by five hours of chaos, a police standoff and, finally, to an arrest.
No one was injured in separate shootings outside the Sears department store and at a nearby Baja Fresh restaurant. After several hours of negotiations at the eatery, Adam Hernandez, 27, the suspect in both shootings, surrendered peacefully.
Police had been searching for fugitive Daniel Perez, who had been mistakenly released from a Pinal County jail in December. The standoff ended with police finding Hernandez.
"We are very thankful no one has been injured and that this ended peacefully," said Chandler Police Sgt. Joe Favazzo.
Perez was arrested in December on suspicion of shooting at Department of Public Safety officers in Casa Grande. But he was mistakenly allowed to make bond and freed Dec. 16 from a Pinal County jail. He has not been located. Since then, apprehending Perez has been the No. 1 priority of a DPS fugitive task force, said DPS spokesman Bart Graves.
A description matching his had been linked to a series of armed robberies in the East Valley in recent days, Graves said. The search turned more dramatic Wednesday when officers arrived at the mall.
Officers believe the man they were following may have robbed a hotel south of the mall, according to Favazzo. Officers followed him to the mall area and confronted him in the parking lot, where he opened fire on them, Favazzo said. Officers fired back, and the man fled into Sears.
Officers chased him but lost sight of him, and police decided to lock down the mall to find him, Favazzo said. "While securing the mall, we were told that shots were being fired at Baja Fresh," Favazzo said.
A man had run into the eatery across the street from the mall and fired shots, Favazzo said. Most people in the restaurant fled immediately, but at least two remained, and were shut in the restaurant as tactical officers negotiated with the gunman.
Tactical units from the state Department of Public Safety, Chandler and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office responded to Baja Fresh. For hours, police were uncertain whether they were dealing with two suspects in two places, one at the Baja Fresh and one in the mall. The mall was locked down for five hours as police checked identifications of some 200 people inside and methodically searched every "alcove and hallway," Favazzo said.
Only when the gunman surrendered were officers certain they had found Hernandez, not Perez, and that there was no other person hiding in the mall. Hernandez was responsible for both shooting incidents Wednesday, Chandler and DPS officers said.
At least three people who had been trapped inside Baja Fresh emerged shaken but unhurt.
A very interesting ending to a very intriguing, ongoing saga.
I am a civil litigation attorney. This seems on the face to be a random act by a criminal mind. On surface, there appears to be no basis for civil liability here.
However, what about the Daniel Perez tale? What happens when he hurts or kills someone? Will Pinal County be liable in some way for allowing this dangerous criminal to escape?
In July 2010, 3 convicted felons (2 murderers) escaped from a State prison on Kingman. Days later, while attempting to remain free and elude capture, they brutally murdered an innocent couple in New Mexico.
Lawsuits are presenting pending against the State and the private company that managed the prison from where the murderers escaped.
Will this one involving Daniel Perez end the same way? Let’s hope and pray, for all of us, that it does not. Let’s also be diligent and aware in providing the DPS task force any and all information which might aid them to capture this dangerous criminal.