The Arizona Republic said hasty decision-making and a breakdown in communications were primary factors in the deaths of two Phoenix police officers who were gunned down in an apartment-complex shootout 16 months ago, according to an internal report released late Thursday. And a review committee is raising questions about the Phoenix Police Department’s long-standing take-charge-now culture, suggesting that greater “emphasis must be placed on slowing down the decision-making process” in high-pressure situations.
Officers Jason Wolfe and Eric White were shot to death on Aug. 28, 2004, after they kicked in the apartment door of a delusional shooting suspect. Less than two minutes before, a Phoenix police dispatcher broadcast that the suspect, Douglas M. Tatar, was on the phone, alone in Apartment F267. “Says he has a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun with him,” the dispatcher said. Whether they heard the transmission is not clear. But the report issued by the review committee shows none of the five officers gathered on the landing outside Tatar’s door responded to the dispatcher before they forced their way into the apartment. The long-awaited “Las Palmaritas Report,” named for the apartment complex where the shootout occurred, is a comprehensive examination of the fatal shooting. It was undertaken to pinpoint changes that could be made to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. All officers have received copies of the report.