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Judi Villa, David J. Cieslak and Brent Whiting
The Arizona Republic
May. 11, 2005 12:00 AM

A veteran Phoenix police officer who chose to spend his entire 22-year career patrolling the city's streets was shot twice Tuesday during a routine traffic stop and left to die in the roadway.

Officer David Uribe, 48, didn't even have a chance to draw his gun.

Despite an intensive six-hour, house-to-house search, police were still looking for the killer late Tuesday. advertisement

Uribe's son, Adam, followed his father's footsteps into the Police Department and was on duty in a different part of the city when his father was shot. Uribe, who patrolled in the Cactus Park Precinct in northwest Phoenix and was married to a Glendale police dispatcher, was the fifth Phoenix officer to die in the past year.

From inside his home, Eugene Butler and his girlfriend, Dawn Cross, heard the fatal shots, then found Uribe lying on his back on Cactus Road at 34th Avenue. Butler, 30, ripped off his tank top and wrapped it around the officer's bleeding head. Cross, 32, tried to plug the bullet holes in Uribe's head and neck with her fingers.

"I didn't care about anything but him," Cross said hours later, still crying.

Moments before the shooting, Uribe had called a license plate in to dispatchers for what should have been a routine traffic stop. The plate had been stolen from a vehicle in Scottsdale, but it was unlikely Uribe knew that when he pulled the Chevy over and stepped out of his patrol car.

"It happened so fast," said Sean Jones, who lives across the street. The officer wasn't even there when Jones, 24, came back from walking his dog. In the time it took him to hang up the leash and reach for a pack of cigarettes, the shots rang out. Five of them. Jones rushed outside.

"I knew he was gone (from) the way he was laying there," he said. "It was sad.

"He wasn't moving. Nothing. They were picking up his arms, and they were just dropping."

Paramedics rushed Uribe to a hospital, where doctors kept him alive on life support for more than four hours, until his family could say their goodbyes. Uribe, of Glendale, a father of five and stepfather to two, was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m. His family and officers on his squad were at his side.

"(Uribe) paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life in doing his job," Phoenix police Cmdr. Kim Humphrey said. "He is going to be greatly missed."

Shortly after the shooting, the killer abandoned his vehicle about a mile away. Police launched an intensive search for a 6-foot-2, 200-pound bald man in a white T-shirt. Officers also were looking for a second man but gave no description. One man was seen walking from the car with a handgun.

Officers, their weapons drawn and assisted by K-9 units, scoured the area from Cactus Road to Dunlap Avenue, between 28th Drive and 35th Avenue.

Eight schools were locked down during the search.

No suspect was found by Tuesday night, but police said evidence found in the abandoned car led them to believe the men may have been at a Denny's restaurant at 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road at 4:40 p.m. Monday. The restaurant provided security camera footage of two men, and police said they looked similar to the men seen walking from the car.

Police Chief Jack Harris promised, "We will not leave any stone unturned in apprehending (the shooter). We have to do everything in our power to make sure these people are captured and punished to the extent of the law."

Sgt. Randy Force said Uribe called in the traffic stop at 11:10 a.m. Shortly after, a citizen called 911 to report an officer had "fallen backwards."

"Clearly, this was a situation in which an officer was taken by surprise," Humphrey said. "You don't expect something like this to happen when you make a routine traffic stop.

"It doesn't make any sense at all."

Hundreds of officers arrived throughout the afternoon at John C. Lincoln Hospital- North Mountain, where they consoled each other and wiped away tears. Witnesses said officers at the shooting scene also were crying and could be seen kicking their cars and hitting their windows.

Tylor Garrett, 25, who lives nearby, said a prayer for the officer's family.

"He was just lying there lifeless," Garrett said. "He didn't even have a chance."

At the hospital, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was among those who stood vigil.

"I absolutely believe there is a special place in heaven for people like David, who live and give their lives for others," Gordon said. "Today, he joins his fellow heroes in that special place."

Uribe's death comes a year to the day that Phoenix police Officer Don Schultz was pulled from a canal after an on-duty diving accident and during the week officers were gathering at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor those killed in the line of duty. Five Arizona officers, including three from Phoenix police, are to be honored at a candlelight vigil Friday night.

Uribe is the fifth Phoenix police officer to die in the past year. Schultz died two days after he was pulled from the canal.

In August, Officers Jason Wolfe and Eric White were shot dead at an apartment complex. Officer Darrol Yoos died in December, 10 months after he was injured in a car accident on his way to work.

Officer Joe Clure, who worked with Uribe in the Maryvale Precinct for about 13 years, described Uribe as a "great guy," "a fantastic cop" and a spiritual man.

"It's kind of tough right now," Clure said before Uribe was pronounced dead. "We're waiting for the inevitable."

Clure later continued, "This is a terrible loss, not just for the family but for the whole community. Dave was a wonderful police officer and a wonderful human being. He died doing what he loved."

Clure said Uribe was a dedicated street cop who was easygoing, personable and the kind of officer he'd want to respond if his parents ever needed help. Uribe, he said, was "a man of character" who "would do anything for you."

"He's just in a better place. Ultimately, we'll all be there," Clure said. "You can't make rhyme nor reason of something like this. You just have to ask the Lord to help you cope."
 
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