Crimes ‘too close for comfort’ in East Valley - East Valley Tribune: News

Crimes ‘too close for comfort’ in East Valley

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Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:04 am | Updated: 3:46 pm, Wed Jun 19, 2013.

More officers are joining the hunt for two criminals in a series of rapes and shootings, and new billboards are urging residents to help. Mesa residents now face the possibility that the crime spree has spilled into their streets.

Some were fearful and others reticent Tuesday in the neighborhoods near Brown Road and Stapley Drive, where Saturday's shooting is believed to be the most recent in the Serial Shooter's series. The shooter had already struck the East Valley once when Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, 20, was shot and killed May 2 in Scottsdale.

"It's too close for comfort, said Jamie Page, 47, who lives near the Mesa intersection. "I don't go out at night, but it's still a little scary."

Other residents, like Spencer Goodere, 28, said they were "not really that concerned" because they are never outside in the early morning hours.

Tyrone Reeding, 18, said he'll take precautions.

"I ain't going to be out all late at night," he said.

"That's not safe anyway."

The most recent shooting victim, whom police won't name, was shot at 4:44 a.m. while riding his bicycle to work north on Stapley Drive just north of Brown Road.

He was alone and did not initially realize he was shot, police said.

A driver came to the man's aid when he appeared hurt, said Mesa Sgt. Chuck Trapani.

He was taken to a hospital, where he remains with injuries that aren't life-threatening.

Trapani wouldn't say where the man was hospitalized or describe his injuries.

"It hasn't positively been linked to the Serial Shooter," Trapani said, "so we don't want to release his name in case the person who shot him knows him."

Of the 35 shootings believed related to the Serial Shooter, police said only four are definitively connected through forensic evidence.

Police haven't ruled out the idea that one or more shooters could be copycats.

Phoenix police said the cases share enough similarities to link them: The victim was alone, he was riding a bike, it was early morning, and there were no witnesses and no description of the shooter.

But Mesa police aren't sure, and will continue to investigate any leads.

Phoenix police aren't surprised that the serial killer might be branching out.

"We've always expected this and we've always been prepared for this," said Phoenix Sgt. Andy Hill.

"When we look at serial shooters around the country, they move around a lot."

Still, Mayor Phil Gordon said police have added 52 more officers to the task force investigating the crimes, bringing the total to 186.

Also, Clear Channel Outdoor donated 12 billboards throughout Phoenix to raise awareness about the killers.

The first billboard was displayed Tuesday at Central Avenue and Indian School Road, while the others will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The billboard campaign will last two months and cost the company $150,000, said Clear Channel Outdoor CEO Paul Meyer.

And if either the Serial Shooter or Baseline Killer is identified, but not caught, Meyer promised to place the killer's picture on every billboard within 24 hours.

"I think this says to the killers: You know what? There's a big price tag on your head, and everyone is banding together to find you," said Sgt. Paul Penzone, who works with Silent Witness and helped draft the billboards' message.

Like the billboard, Phoenix and Mesa police are reminding the public to be aware of their surroundings and to immediately call 911 about any suspicious activity.

Many residents are taking the message seriously.

"I have kids that are out and about in the evenings," said Beverly Burr, 46, of Mesa. "Now, I might have to put a stop on that. It's very scary even just being at home."

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