WILLCOX — Three local men were stuck in the middle of a life-threatening fugitive situation early Thursday morning that resulted in them witnessing the unfortunate death of a 21-year-old man from Georgia.
Ten to 11 shots were fired, according to eye witness accounts, as the fugitive suspect attempted to re-enter a house on Airport Road in Willcox owned by Joseph Bracamonte, 30. The suspect was pronounced dead at Northern Cochise Community Hospital, said Cochise County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas.
“Joseph first let him in at about 3:30 a.m. to get a drink of water, go the bathroom and make a phone call,” said Andy Bracamonte III, 32, Joseph Bracamonte’s older brother. “Joseph had just heard a traffic accident nearby on the freeway and the man said he had wrecked his car.”
The Bracamontes were preparing for an early morning departure to travel to Oklahoma for a memorial service when the suspect approached the home with the lights on.
“He was dirty and his arm was scratched up, so I offered him some water and some Tylenol,” Joseph said. “He took the water but not the Tylenol and made a call to his mom in Georgia.”
“He didn’t seem human when I saw him,” Andy said. “His eyes were blank and looked like he was dead to the world.”
What the Bracamontes, including dad Andy Jr, 63, didn’t know, was that this man had just shot an officer and his car crashed nearby because it was forced off the freeway by a state trooper and crashed into a fence post.
Capas released this statement from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, the investigating agency in the incident:
“On Thursday June 10 at approximately 3:11 am, an Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) Trooper was on Interstate 10 near mile post 378 when the trooper observed a silver Chevrolet SUV traveling at approximately 111 miles per hour. The trooper exited his patrol vehicle and contacted the driver; while explaining the reason for the stop, the driver accelerated away, and a pursuit was initiated utilizing emergency lights and siren.”
Willcox Police Department set up spikes at milepost 344.
“Although the suspect ran the deflation devices, he continued to flee.” the statement continued. “Slowed by punctured tires, the trooper conducted a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT), which caused the suspect’s vehicle to rotate. During the rotation, the driver fired a handgun at the trooper multiple times, striking the trooper’s vehicle and shooting the trooper.”
Under cover of darkness and dust, the suspect fled on foot into the desert and nearby rural homes on Airport Road in Willcox near milepost 338.
“He wanted a ride to the Greyhound bus depot at the Freeway Texaco (where Andy Jr. works),” Andy III said. “He got into our truck as were preparing to leave as Joseph thought we could just drop him off on our way out. I realized that might be a bad idea because we didn’t know this guy and he didn’t seem to have any emotions, just coldness.”
Andy Jr. added “there was a helicopter on the freeway looking for someone, and we had a dirty guy looking for a bus.”
“So before dad and Joseph got in with him, I hid behind one of our other vehicles and called the cops,” Andy Jr said.”
Within minutes, Andy III said, a local officer showed up with an assault rifle, followed by state and county law enforcement and the overhead helicopter with infra-red sensors. They knew the authorities had found their fugitive.
“The local cop quickly realized we were the only ones from that house and pushed us off to the side in the back by the water shed,” Andy Jr. said
“The suspect exited the vehicle armed with a handgun,” the sheriff’s department said, “and refused law enforcement commands to surrender. Instead, the suspect accessed the front door of the occupied residence with the gun in hand. Due to the extreme violence demonstrated by the suspect and the refusal to obey commands to surrender, law enforcement utilized lethal force to protect both the residents and themselves.”
It appeared that some of the officers weren’t aware the home was unoccupied when the suspect opened the screen door to Joseph’s house, Andy III said.
“Although he was polite and never seemed a threat to any of us, I could see he didn’t have good intentions when he saw the officers,” he said. “He never pointed his gun at them, but he also never stopped walking toward Joseph’s house.”
Andy III said he heard 11 shots, a neighbor heard 10, but he didn’t directly see the victim when the officers fired. The door was locked and the victim would have had a hard time entering if he hadn’t been shot, he said.
“Based upon the evidence gathered thus far, the suspect made some fatal decisions, ultimately resulting in this use of deadly force by the officers on scene,” stated Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
“I saw him wailing about as they administered CPR, but an officer told me he was dead within 15 minutes after getting shot,” Andy said.
“Law enforcement officers immediately initiated lifesaving measures on the suspect, after which he was transported to a local hospital. He was later pronounced deceased at the hospital,” the official statement said
County attorney Brian McIntyre said a semi-automatic firearm (pistol) with a high capacity drum magazine was found close to the suspect after his apprehension.
“We knew he had a pistol in his lap when we were getting ready to give him a ride, which is why we hesitated,” Andy said. “All I know is I wasn’t going, but if my dad and brother did take him and I hadn’t called the cops, he would have likely shot them and taken the truck.”