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Man slain in Ariz. linked to Miss. officer's death

9:13 AM, Dec 29, 2013   |    comments
A hearse carrys the body of Tupelo, Miss., Police Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer on Dec. 27. (Photo: Thomas Wells, AP)
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The bank-robbery suspect who was shot and killed by a Phoenix police detective Saturday is also suspected of killing Mississippi officer Gale Stauffer during a bank robbery in Tupelo as well as an attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the FBI said Sunday.

"We believe that this suspect is the same individual who is responsible for the attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the robbery of the BancorpSouth in Tupelo, (Miss.), the shooting of Officer Joseph Maher, and the murder of Officer Gale Stauffer," the Jackson, Miss., FBI bureau said in an email.

The FBI said more information would be provided later Sunday. The slain suspect's name has not been released.

Phoenix police hailed one of their detectives as a hero on Saturday after they said he sped to the scene of a bank robbery, saw a fellow officer under fire, exited his vehicle and shot the suspect dead.

The robbery and subsequent shootout occurred at about 10 a.m. at the Compass Bank near 34th Avenue and Thomas Road, police said.

Officer James Holmes said the masked man pointed a weapon at the manager and ordered him to open the teller drawers while demanding everyone else get on the ground.A witness waiting in line at a drive-through fast-food restaurant across the street called police at 10 a.m. and said he spotted a masked man going into the bank, police said.

"At some point, he actually had the manger and one of the tellers open the vault," Holmes said.

The man left with an undisclosed amount of money.

An officer in the area responded and saw the suspect leaving the bank with a bag and a gun, Holmes said. The officer broadcast to the suspect over his radio and ordered the man to stop.

"He (the suspect) was heading toward a white car," Holmes said. "The suspect at that time ... threw the bag into his car, he raised his weapon and he began firing at the officer."

By coincidence, a Phoenix robbery detective in an unmarked vehicle was in the area for an unrelated investigation when he also responded to the 911 call.

As the detective entered the area and approached the suspect from the side, the detective saw him firing at the officer, Holmes said.

"The officer is trying to retreat and take cover at that point," Holmes said.

The detective drew his gun and shot the suspect in the upper body, Holmes said. The man then fell to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Holmes called the detective a hero and said he acted in textbook fashion.

"We had an officer that was obviously in distress, trying to get to cover as this suspect is shooting at him," he said.

"The detective did what he should have done. He responded, and because he responded, we have two officers that were involved in this ordeal and they're both alive."

Holmes said police have no other suspects. He said four people were in the bank, including a bystander, 37-year-old manager, 25-year-old teller and 26-year-old teller. No victims or officers were injured.

Holmes said the suspect knew police were outside the bank but exited anyway.

"We didn't have a hostage situation or something similar to that," he said.

A witness, Steve Lopez, said he was driving home from a store when he heard what he described as explosions.

"These days - Christmas, New Year's - people tend to drink and get crazy, so when I hear an explosion it's either a flat tire or somebody shooting someone," he said.

Contributing: Donna Leinwand


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