Recent gun violence is unlike anything Phoenix police chief has seen in 33 years

Aug 29, 2022, 11:14 AM | Updated: 1:46 pm
A sample of weapons seized during Operation Gun Crime Crackdown. (City of Phoenix Photo)...
A sample of weapons seized during Operation Gun Crime Crackdown. (City of Phoenix Photo)
(City of Phoenix Photo)

PHOENIX – The chief of police in Phoenix said Monday that the city’s recent spate of gun violence is the worst she’s witnessed in her three decades in law enforcement.

“I have not in 33 years ever seen anything like this,” Chief Jeri Williams, who is retiring later this year, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show the morning after yet another deadly shooting.

Williams, who has been Phoenix’s chief for nearly six years, said there were 17 shootings and 11 homicides in the city over the weekend.

That includes an incident Sunday night in which a man wearing tactical gear and armed with a semiautomatic rifle killed two people and wounded two officers before apparently taking his own life.

“Kevlar helmet, tactical vest, high-powered rifle,” Williams said. “This individual was set on doing damage to our community.”

While questions about the shooter’s background and possible motivation were scarce in the early stages of the investigation, Williams said department research shows that “a small percentage of people are committing the vast majority of crimes.”

She said the issue of gun crime carried out by people who by law are prohibited from possessing firearms “is one of the greatest frustrations” for Valley law enforcement leaders.

“It’s something that we, as a group, have been trying to elevate because … it’s baffling to me to have someone who is a prohibited possessor be able to possess a gun and then create all this harm and damage to our community members,” she said.

“When are we going to stand up and say something?”

In early July, local and federal agencies launched Operation Gun Crime Crackdown, an initiative to get guns out of the wrong hands in Phoenix.

As of mid-August, more than 700 weapons were seized and 500 arrests made as part of the program.

Williams is also calling on citizens to play an active role in crime prevention.

“What we need our community to do is, if they know someone who is a prohibited possessor — because people know — please reach out and let us know, keep an open dialogue with us,” she said.

“Keep up those neighborhood watch programs, because folks know interesting people who should or shouldn’t be in the neighborhood, i.e., ‘I’ve not seen this person before.’ But maintain that open dialogue and be a responsible gun owner.”

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Recent gun violence is unlike anything Phoenix police chief has seen in 33 years