PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona police officer who fatally shot a man holding a baby had been involved in six previous shootings since 2002, including five that were fatal, authorities said Wednesday.
Scottsdale police Officer James Peters was one of several officers called to a home in the Phoenix suburb on Tuesday night after neighbors reported a man holding a baby was threatening them with a handgun, Chief Alan Rodbell said.
Peters is a 12-year veteran of the police force who has served on its SWAT team. In three of his previous six shootings, other officers also fired at suspects.
A list compiled by The Arizona Republic shows Peters' first shooting was in 2002, when he was one of three SWAT officers who shot and wounded a domestic violence suspect after a standoff. Between 2003 and 2010, he was involved in five fatal shootings
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office investigated his previous shootings and ruled them justifiable, Rodbell said.
Police department spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said investigators were looking into what led police to shoot 50-year-old James Loxas on Tuesday and why they felt threatened or believed he was a threat to the child.
"There were at least three officers that were in a position to engage the suspect," Clark said. "At least one of the officers thought he saw something in the suspect's hand. So at this point in the investigation we want to make sure we have all of the officers' statements down."
Rodbell said the investigation will likely take weeks to complete. Afterward, the findings will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Police said Loxas went back in his house after allegedly threatening the neighbors hen opened the door with the 9-month-old grandson in his arms but wouldn't come out.
Several officers called for him to come outside, but Loxas refused, Rodbell said. Peters shot Loxas in the head with a scope-equipped rifle from about 15 yards away when he leaned over and reached inside the house.
Loxas died instantly, and fell with the baby in his arms, police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said. The baby was unhurt.
Police said a loaded handgun was tucked into the side of a chair a few feet inside the door.
Rodbell promised a complete investigation into the shooting.
"A police officer's primary duty is to protect life. It is difficult for everyone when we are forced to take a life," Rodbell said.