Fallen Phoenix Officer John Hobbs will be 'greatly missed'
Phoenix Police Officer John Hobbs was killed in the line of duty Monday afternoon. (Source: Phoenix Police Department)
Officers gather near the scene where a Phoenix police officer was shot and killed and another wounded in a shootout with a fugitive Monday afternoon. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
John Hobbs, a 21-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, drew the praise of his police chief after he was killed in a shootout with a violent convicted felon Monday afternoon.
Phoenix police Chief Daniel Garcia released Hobbs' name at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Hobbs, 43, was immediately shot by William Thornton as Hobbs and a fellow officer were getting out of their car to chase Thornton, Garcia said.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday requested that all state flags be lowered to half-staff until sunset Tuesday and on the day of his interment, which is pending.
"Officer John Hobbs, though he was hit, returned fire, hitting the suspect multiple times," Garcia said.
Another officer also fired numerous rounds and hit Thornton before the suspect fell to the ground.
Many of Hobbs' closest friends and fellow officers are also reacting to the news of his death.
"When I heard about the news that he was shot, I didn't really accept it. [I said] that can't be Hobbs. He's one of those warriors. [He's] indestructible," said retired Phoenix police Officer Ritchie Ramos.
Ramos and Hobbs worked together as beat patrol officers in the mid 1990s. The two gained some notoriety when their patrol unit busted a drug house that contained a half billion dollars of cocaine.
"That was one of the highlights of our career back then. So we became mini-celebrities. We had our 15 minutes of fame," said Ramos.
Ramos said Hobbs was devoted to his family and his job. He says he couldn't believe the news when he learned Hobbs had died. However, Ramos said he finds comfort knowing Hobbs died doing what he loved.
"He always said, 'I love this job. I like catching bad guys.' And that's what he did until the end. I know he was happy, and I know that's what he wanted to do," said Ramos.
Garcia echoed that description, describing Hobbs as a "well-rounded and respected professional police officer."
"He will be greatly missed," Garcia said.
Hobbs is survived by his wife and three children, ages 10, 8 and 6, Garcia said.
The second officer, whose family requested he not be identified, was wounded and is in stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center on Tuesday morning.
As members of the department's Major Offender Bureau, Hobbs and the unidentified officer deal with suspects who "either are accustomed to prison and don't mind going back" or those who will do anything to prevent a return to prison.
Thornton was released from prison Jan. 9 after serving time on attempted robbery and narcotics charges, Garcia said. By Feb. 25, Thornton became the prime suspect in an attempted homicide in which the victim was shot in the chest from point-blank range.
The victim died Thursday, March 7, according a police spokesman.
He had been under surveillance when the officers, dressed in plain clothes, were apparently recognized, Garcia said. Thornton tried to elude them in his car before crashing into several vehicles at 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
An 83-year-old woman and a man in his 40s were hurt and taken to hospitals, said Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos, who added the man was treated and released and that the woman was doing well.
Thornton ran from his car with "with reckless abandon" and tried to run from the officers. He turned and opened fire as Hobbs and the other officer, who was driving, got out of their car. Garcia said Hobbs was able to return fire even as he lay badly wounded on the ground.
Martos said Tuesday was "a dark day for Phoenix."
In the face of tragedy, Garcia said he and his department have been touched by the support from police officers, citizens and others in the hours after the shooting.
He said he was truly thankful for the support shown by the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA) and Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), as well as the citizens "who immediately after this tragedy unfolded, extended their hearts out to our department. We are truly thankful for the support we received."
Garcia also extended his thanks to Glendale police Chief Deborah Black, whose officers assisted Phoenix police Monday.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called Hobbs' death another "tragic reminder" that officers "put their lives on the line every day for this city."
He urged Phoenix residents to show their support to the department and its individual officers.
"We need to show as a community how much we love and support our officers," Stanton said.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Brewer said she was shocked to learn of Hobbs' death:
"Detective Hobbs dedicated his life to protecting the community and making it a better place for all to live. It is a stark and saddening reminder that, for our men and women in law enforcement, no day on the job is ever without danger. His memory and noble service will forever be remembered and cherished by the eternally grateful state of Arizona. Please say a prayer for Detective Hobbs, his family and his fellow brothers and sisters in law enforcement as we mourn this unthinkable tragedy. Please also continue to pray for the recovery of Detective Hobbs' fellow officer, who was critically injured in the shooting."
Police spokesman Officer James Holmes told CBS 5 News on Tuesday morning that he knew both officers who were shot.
"Our hearts are broken," Holmes said. He called them both hardworking officers whose jobs were to go after the most dangerous criminals.
Hobbs was one of three Phoenix police officers who found 997 kilos of cocaine in a house on May 6, 1999.
Hundreds of officers and many Phoenix residents had gathered at the hospital in a show of support.
"I just can't sit there at the house and wonder," said Barb Heller. "I'd rather be here where I am close and can pray and maybe the family can look out a window and know that somebody cared."
Holmes said the Phoenix police "enjoys the best community support in the country when it comes to law enforcement." He said the city's citizens help the men and woman in the department get through tough times.
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