It’s been an unusually bloody two weeks in metro Tucson: Nine people have been killed in a 12-day stretch.
The latest killing on Tucson’s streets was a cab driver, Timothy Royce, 27, of Tucson, who was shot Wednesday night in what detectives are calling an attempted robbery. The Yellow Cab driver was found dead in an alley just north of East Helen Street and west of North Sixth Avenue, Sgt. Fabian Pacheco said.
Nearly half of the deaths listed by the Tucson Citizen as homicides during the first nine weeks of the year occurred in the past 12 days – from Feb. 24 through Thursday.
The rash of killings has drawn the attention of police commanders.
“I don’t know if I can say what’s going on, but I can say what we’re doing about it,” said Assistant Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor, head of the Investigative Services Bureau. “We’ve been working on this since Monday.”
Villaseñor said the department is sending extra officers – he did not say how many – into wide swaths of midtown and the Southeast Side.
Officers from the targeted response unit and gang outreach program, as well as detectives from various details, will work the streets, going to homes and businesses to talk with residents, Villaseñor said.
The purpose, he said, is to gather information, mostly on gang and drug activity, which he said accounts for much of the city’s violent crime. It will also show criminals the police are out looking for them and not ignoring the problem.
Officers are being sent to an area bounded by South Alvernon Way, East Broadway, South Sahuara Avenue and East Golf Links Road.
“That’s a huge area,” Villaseñor said.
The department also plans to send more officers into other areas of town, Villaseñor said. They will work the West and Northwest sides where gang and drug activity has risen, he said. He would not be more specific.
The recent homicide spike could be tied “to narcotics and gang activity,” he said, or could be a simple anomaly.
“But we won’t know that until at least six months to a year pass and we won’t wait that long to take action,” he said.
Records kept by the Tucson Citizen show 16 homicides in the metro Tucson area – seven since Feb. 24.
That total does not include a man shot and killed by a Tucson police officer as the man fled in a car. Nor does it include one homicide in the unincorporated county in January or a deputy’s fatal shooting of a man who shot and wounded the deputy and his partner.
No known motive in 3 of 7 homicides
Tucson homicides from Feb. 24 to Thursday:
•Feb. 24. Dean Morgan, 50. On Feb. 23 a passerby called police reporting a man in the roadway at East 34th Street and South Fremont Avenue. Officers found Morgan, who had been stabbed numerous times. Morgan died at a hospital the next day.
Solved: No. Suspected motive: None discovered.
•Feb. 25. Manuel De Jesus Bayze-Felix, 22, of the 7800 block of East Silver Beech Drive. Bayze-Felix was driving his pickup through the intersection of East Escalante and South Kolb Roads on Feb. 24 when a man on foot near the intersection shot at him, hitting Bayze-Felix in the head. Bayze-Felix died the next day.
Solved: No. Suspected motive: Gang related.
•Feb. 27. Andre D. Donaldson, 35, of the 3200 block of West Cactus Tree Trail. A woman walking along East Laguna Street spotted a man in the street near North Stone Avenue. Officers found Donaldson mortally wounded in the street. He was dead on arrival at a hospital.
Solved: No. Suspected motive Undetermined.
•Feb. 28. Jose Enrique Bermudez, 32, address undetermined. The manager of the mobile home park in the 5300 block of South Park Avenue called police to report a bullet going through his window about 12:21 a.m. Officers could find no gunman or shooting victim. Police then got a call saying the caller was driving a wounded man to a hospital. The car, with the wounded man, was found by a DPS officer. It had stopped in a road construction area at I-10 and West St. Mary’s Road. Officers found Bermudez dead in the car.
Solved: No. Suspected motive: Drug related.
•Feb. 28. Carlos Ramirez Valenzuela, 34, of Mexico. A man, whose name has not been released by police, was at a home in the 5800 block of East Sanderling Drive with his 2-year-old daughter when armed intruders broke into his house about 9 p.m. At least one suspect opened fire on the man, wounding him in the arm. The man returned fire with his gun, killing suspected robber Valenzuela. The others fled. The suspects were looking for drugs, police said, but are believed to have targeted the wrong house. Detectives found no sign of criminal activity in the home. Valenzuela, a Mexican citizen, had served eight years of a 10-year sentence in Arizona for armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.
Solved: Yes. Suspected motive: Drug robbery
•Feb. 29. Clarence E. Akins, 42, of the 100 block of East Elm Street. Police were sent to investigate a report of shots heard in the 2900 block of East 30th Street, near South Country Club Road, shortly after 10 p.m. They found Akins in the street. He had been shot at least once and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Solved: No. Suspected motive: Undetermined.
•March 6. Yellow Cab driver Timothy Royce, 27. A passerby spotted a Yellow Cab part way in the street at East Helen Street just east of North Seventh Avenue. About that time a Yellow Cab manager showed up looking for Royce.
Solved: No. Suspected motive: Robbery.