Officer in 3 fatal shootings has praise, investigations in his fileby Ryn Gargulinski on Jun. 05, 2007, under Local
A Tucson police officer who shot and killed a man May 25, the third suspect he has shot and killed in less than two years, is expected back to work this week, a police official said Monday.
Officer Jeffrey Stover had been on paid leave pending clearance by a Police Department psychologist, standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, Deputy Chief Kermit Miller said. The shooting is under investigation by the department’s Board of Inquiry.
Stover shot Walter Canez, 48, near Martin Avenue and 34th Street when a clerk from a nearby convenience store flagged down an officer about a man waving a gun, Sgt. Decio Hopffer said May 27.
Stover and a partner came across Canez, who had two handguns in his waistband, Hopffer said. Stover told investigators he shot Canez when he reached for one gun, Hopffer said.
Stover has had a notable career during his 13 years on the force.
Besides Canez, Stover shot and killed 25-year-old Deangelo Rivera on Feb. 15, 2006, and 40-year-old Miguel Kovrig on Sept. 29, 2005.
He earned a commendation and more than 10 letters of appreciation and recognition. He had his life saved by a fellow officer after being trapped in a police car following a hit-and-run that broke five ribs and punctured his lung. He was indicted for aggravated assault but the indictment was overturned, according to records obtained by the Tucson Citizen and reports in another news outlet.
“I would not classify it as a concern,” Miller said of Stover’s list of shootings and his assault.
An earlier version of this story on the Citizen Web site omitted the word “not” from Miller’s quote.
Shooting three men in 20 months is “rare but not unprecedented,” Miller said. The Canez shooting was the fourth officer-involved shooting this year for the department.
Stover has requested a transfer to the training academy, where he is being primed as an instructor, Miller said. If Stover so chooses, Miller said, he could teach firearms.
The department released only the last five years of Stover’s internal affairs investigations records, saying that’s as far back as it keeps them. Those records show 10 investigations that range from on-duty traffic accidents, to assault to the shootings. Stover was cleared in all but one probe, which Miller refused to comment about because the investigation is still open.
Stover was indicted in 1996 on an aggravated assault charge after other officers reported he kicked and punched a suspect being arrested, according to reports in the Tucson Citizen.
Stover was fired from the police force but reinstated after a Superior Court judge overturned the indictment and he wasn’t recharged, according to reports in The Arizona Daily Star.
In the February 2006 death, Stover fired seven shots into Rivera, according to the Board of Inquiry report.
Stover answered an evening 911 call at the apartment complex at 6200 S. Campbell Ave., the report stated, where he found a car with two bullet holes in the windshield.
The car belonged to a woman whose boyfriend, Rivera, a felon previously convicted for weapons misconduct, had fired the shots, the report said. Stover went to check on Hernandez inside her apartment and found the two of them inside, Stover said in an interview included in the report.
Stover said he felt threatened after Rivera took a fighting stance, the report said. Stover struck Rivera twice in the head with his palm, the report said. The men struggled and Rivera fell to the floor. Stover said he told Rivera not to move, the report said. That’s when Rivera reached toward a gun in his waistband, Stover stated, prompting him to shoot Rivera.
The killing of Rivera prompted protests from the family, which expressed outrage about the shooting and said the official report was a lie.
In the 2005 killing of Kovrig, Stover fired one round from a shotgun. Another officer fired a handgun but did not hit Kovrig.
The confrontation began when Stover was dispatched to an emergency call on the South Side at West Harlan Street and Santa Clara Avenue involving a man with a gun screaming about plans to kill his wife and himself, the Board of Inquiry report said.
The 911 tape of the early-morning incident indicated Kovrig slapped his wife, screamed about committing a murder-suicide and then ran outside.
Stover and five other officers found Kovrig waving a pistol, the report stated. The report said Kovrig had told his son the gun was not loaded, and the report does not indicate if it was loaded..
Stover and other officers on the scene demanded Kovrig drop his gun, which he did not do, the report said.
Stover fired his shotgun and the other officer his handgun, after Kovrig made a movement with the hand that held the gun, the report said. A third officer didn’t fire, that officer said in the report, because he thought Kovrig was about to throw away his gun.
Kovrig had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent at the time of his death. You are presumed to be impaired in Arizona if the BAC is greater than .08.
The board found both fatal shootings justified.
“Each situation is looked at individually,” Miller said. “We would have done something if it was not justified use of force, but we didn’t.”
Stover could not be reached for comment Monday night. The investigation of the third shooting is ongoing.