Police chief talks deadly officer-involved shooting in Marana

Police chief talks deadly officer-involved shooting in Marana
(Source: MPD)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The officer who shot and killed a suspect in Marana was alone when he rushed towards a threat, but several officers were there for him to discuss what it's like to be in such a situation.

Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema provided some perspective Monday afternoon to the graphic body camera video released Friday that shows an officer’s response to a reported stabbing nearly two months ago. The chief said they reviewed the video that same day, March 31.

"It was very telling," said Rozema. "It was very chilling."

After passing two stabbing victims on the property, Officer Stephen Copp made repeated commands to the suspect to drop his weapon. Juan Padilla, 24, did not comply and, at one point, told Copp he'd have to kill him.

Rozema said adrenaline runs high during situations like this, but Copp appeared to maintain control and composure. Ultimately, he chose to fire his service weapon. It's a decision that's not made lightly, according to the chief.

"That's a daunting, horrible thought," he said.

Subduing Padilla with something other than gun was never an option, according to the chief. Copp had already seen the level of violence that had been committed. Rozema said tasers aren't always reliable and anything less than a firearm could have left Copp or the nearby victim in further danger.

"Non-lethal force in a lethal force situation just doesn't make any sense," the police chief said.

He said the department's training is noticeable in the body camera video. Rozema credited not only Copp's resolve in a stressful, dangerous situation, but the persistence and composure of the 911 operator handling the call.

At the end of the day, the chief of police said his officers know their purpose is to serve the community. Protecting people from danger could mean putting others at risk.

"Sometimes that means you have to end somebody else's life in order to save someone's life," said Rozema. "That's a tough decision. That's a difficult position to be in."

Copp isn't alone. Fellow officers who have had to shot someone in the line of duty have since spoken with him about the experience, according to Rozema.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office declined to file charges for the shooting. The Marana Police Department’s review board will discuss the incident later this year.

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