Phoenix cold case: Fatal 1994 shooting near downtown baffles detectives

Feb 12, 2024, 1:00 PM

Image of victim and suspect...

Lealon Spaulding, 34, right, was killed in downtown Phoenix on July 29, 1994, by an unknown suspect, right. (Silent Witness photos)

(Silent Witness photos)

This crime has left investigators stunned and baffled, grappling with its complexity and elusiveness.

“It’s very brutal, very cold-blooded,” Phoenix Police Detective William Schira said.

Schira said the victims were part of a survey crew working on a fiber optic project at Third Avenue and Lincoln Street, just south of downtown.

It was just after 5:30 a.m. on July 29, 1994, when a man approached and shot 36-year-old Lealon Spaulding and 23-year-old Haroon Bhatti for no apparent reason.

Spaulding was fatally shot, while Bhatti survived but sustained life-altering injuries. According to Bhatti’s account to investigators, a man approached them with the words, “What are you guys doing here?” before unleashing a barrage of gunfire.

“Sadly, on this particular case, there isn’t a lot of forensic evidence to work with,” Schira said.

Both Spaulding and Bhatti were engineers. Spaulding had recently graduated from Arizona State University, only 10 days into his new job when the shooting occurred. He left behind a wife who gave birth to their second child just weeks after his tragic death, leaving his 6-year-old son fatherless.

Bhatti, who returned home to Pakistan after he was shot, was a University of Arizona graduate.

Schira remains hopeful that either someone will step forward with crucial information or, given the passage of time, the shooter may have a change of heart and choose to surrender themselves.

Read more about this case here.

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Phoenix cold case: Fatal 1994 shooting near downtown baffles detectives