PHOENIX (AP) — A man who stole a car at gunpoint, shot at Phoenix police officers and then led them on a chase that ended with his suicide broadcast on national television was identified Saturday as a wanted felon with a long criminal history.
Jodon F. Romero, 33, was wanted for violating his parole for a weapons conviction and had numerous other violent crimes in his background, police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.
At the end of an hour-long pursuit on an interstate west of Phoenix on Friday, Romero pulled into the desert and an officer shot at him, although it appears he missed, Thompson said. Romero then walked off the dirt road, put a gun to his head and killed himself.
Fox News was covering the chase that began about midday Friday using a live helicopter shot from Phoenix affiliate KSAZ-TV. Anchor Shepard Smith told viewers that the video was supposed to be on a delay so it could be cut off if something went awry.
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“We really messed up, and we’re all very sorry,” Smith said minutes after the suicide aired. Fox apologized for showing the violence on air. KSAZ itself was not airing the chase.
On Saturday, Thompson said police did everything in their power to de-escalate the situation, but Romero seemed intent on continuing a crime spree that began with a minor incident in which he apparently hit a passing car with his hand, leading to a call to police.
As officers were heading to the south Phoenix area, they learned that a Dodge Caliber sedan had just been stolen at gunpoint from a nearby restaurant parking lot.
They spotted the car and gave chase, but pulled back when Romero began running red lights and endangering the public, Thompson said. Instead, unmarked cars and a police helicopter began following him at a distance.
Romero drove into an industrial area and spotted two marked police units, with one officer standing beside one car talking with another officer. He veered into their lane and opened fire, missing the officers but hitting one patrol car.
He then got onto Interstate 10, heading west toward California at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
The police helicopter and unmarked police vehicles followed at a distance, and the Fox helicopter began its coverage.
Romero fired at the police helicopter during the chase, but didn’t hit it, Thompson said.
About 75 miles west of Phoenix he got off the interstate and drove off into the surrounding desert.
He eventually stopped, got out of the car and began walking down a dirt road. That’s when an officer fired one shot at him.
Although Thompson said it appeared the shot missed, television footage shows Romero stumbling and falling down and appearing to feel his torso before walking into some brush.
That’s when he shot himself in the head.
An autopsy will determine if he was actually shot by an officer as well.
Thompson said it was clear to officers they had to stop Romero from getting back to a populated area.
“Anybody who will shoot at police officers, that shows a total disregard for them, will shoot at anybody else,” he said. “And this needed to be put to an end. Even after we backed out all the marked units he still continued to go.”
Arizona Department of Corrections records show Romero was imprisoned from April 2010 to June 2012 for a felony weapons charge.