Teen admits shooting that left 1, injured a dozen more in Phoenix
By TERRY TANG and FELICIA FONSECA, The Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) – An Arizona teenager suspected of killing one person and injuring a dozen others during a 90-minute series of drive-by shootings in the Phoenix metropolitan area told police he ‘He believed people were pursuing him over his involvement in another shooting, according to court documents released on Friday.
Ashin Tricarico, 19, is accused of opening fire on vehicles and pedestrians from a white SUV on Thursday in at least eight separate shootings in three cities that have fueled fear across the region. Four people were shot dead, including a man whose pickup truck sank into a canal alongside a highway.
A witness told police he saw the suspect driving behind the truck and swerving into the next lane, then heard a gunshot. Police later found the man’s body inside the truck with a gunshot wound to his neck and his head, face and body covered in blood, according to court documents.
Police said Tricarico admitted to some of the shootings and refused to talk about the others, but denied shooting a woman or killing the man, whom police did not identify. Tricarico told police he was involved in another shooting a month ago in Phoenix while serving as a security guard and believed people were following him because of it, court documents show.
“Ashin believes that every vehicle and person he passes is pointing a gun at him,” the police wrote.
Tricarico was working as an armed and licensed security guard at a restaurant in northern Phoenix on May 5 when he shot a male customer outside who was reported to be intoxicated, causing a disturbance and a charge in Tricarico . Phoenix police said in a statement Friday night.
Police said the man was taken to hospital with a non-life threatening injury, and Tricarico remained at the restaurant and cooperated with investigators. The case is still under investigation and Tricarico told police he shot the man in self-defense. The weapon he used was seized and remained in custody.
Tricarico, who was arrested on Thursday, appeared remotely for a hearing on Friday and was asked to contact a public defender. The Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office did not have a specific attorney assigned to Tricarico, whose next hearing is scheduled for June 24. He faces charges of first degree murder, vehicle shooting, aggravated assault and endangerment.
There was no immediate response to a message left at a number listed for a parent in Tricarico.
Documents filed by police in Maricopa County Superior Court allege that Tricarico shot more than a dozen people, apparently at random. In some cases, he stopped next to vehicles and placed the barrel of an assault rifle through his window and fired several shots, police said.
A 3-year-old was in a vehicle with her mother when the front windshield and driver’s side door were hit but were not injured. The mother told police she heard three gunshots while driving and immediately felt pain in her arm, stomach and head. She was covered in blood and was screaming “oh my god”, according to witness statements.
Others were wounded by bullets or broken glass. Authorities said the injured were between 19 and 56 years old.
Police said Tricarico left his home in the town of Surprise with an AR-15 rifle and then purchased four boxes of ammunition, filling two magazines with 30 rounds. Matching shell casings were found at some of the shooting scenes, police said.
Richard Valencia, 34, said he spent Thursday afternoon in hospital after being shot in the shoulder while exiting a Surprise convenience store. He told Phoenix news channel KSAZ-TV that he fired three times with his own weapon.
“I don’t even know the guy,” he said. “It was completely hit or miss.”
Victims and witnesses were able to give authorities a description of the suspect’s vehicle – a white Volkswagen SUV – and the license plate number. A local fire department spotted the vehicle and called the police, who raided a mall that included restaurants, a nail salon and a Walgreens.
Neil Betrue, a pastor from Surprise, was alone in his church office when he noticed some police officers and heard a helicopter buzzing above him. He peeked out the door and saw more officers surrounding the suspect’s car and started recording the commotion on his cell phone.
“I didn’t know at the time that it was a shooting,” Betrue told The Associated Press on Friday. “I just thought there had to be a car chase or something.”
As officers drew their guns, the suspect, dressed in a black jacket, black pants and white shoes, raised his hands in the air. He was then handcuffed without incident, video from Betrue shows.
“I’m just thankful that he didn’t try to endanger the officers or any of the companies or anyone here,” Betrue said.
Police do not believe anyone else was involved in the attacks.
Tricarico was also accused of pointing an assault rifle at a man in the parking lot of a convenience store on Wednesday evening as the two were seated in their vehicles, court documents show. Tricarico then followed the man, who slipped away when he heard a gunshot but was not injured, police said. Tricarico, however, claimed not to have left his home that day.
Police said they would not release any further information until Monday, saying the investigation was complex.