A barroom altercation in Tempe escalated to a shoot-out that left one man dead and another wounded early Tuesday in the East Valley’s first reported homicide of the year.
The crime scene is less than a quarter mile, about three blocks, from Tempe’s Mill Avenue, where the city’s annual New Year’s Eve block party was being held less than an hour before the shooting.
Authorities emphasized Tuesday that the shooting was not related to the nearby Tempe Insight Fiesta Bowl Block Party.
According to Tempe police, a fight broke out between a group of people inside a bar at
First Street and Farmer Avenue just after 1 a.m. At least two from the group left the bar in a vehicle and drove south on Farmer Avenue, police said.
The driver, 25-year-old Corey Washington, of Phoenix, was fatally shot and lost control of his car and crashed into a parked vehicle in the 300 block of South Farmer Avenue, according to witnesses.
His passenger, whose identity was not released by police, left the vehicle but collapsed near the intersection of Fifth Street and Farmer Avenue. That victim was also shot and is expected to survive, but the nature of his injuries was not released, police said.
A few minutes after Washington and his passenger left the bar, gunshots were exchanged between the vehicle and unidentified suspects who police say may or may not have been in another vehicle.
It was unclear Tuesday whether anyone involved in the homicide knew each other. But police said it appeared the shooting was not random.
Police were investigating late Tuesday whether or not the shooting was gang related.
“Initial witness interviews indicate that the parties involved are gang members,” Tempe police spokesman Brandon Banks said. “But there’s no indication that it was gang related at this time.”
The only suspect description provided by witnesses to police was of two or three black males. There was no description of their age, vehicle or clothing, police said.
A white Nissan Sentra with front-end damage was on top of a tow truck near the scene Tuesday where investigators were gathered behind an area cordoned off by yellow police tape.
The area just west of Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake park is a mix of older industrial businesses along with newer, redeveloped residential and business projects.
The fatal shooting in Tempe was the first reported homicide of the year in the East Valley.
Area police departments said New Year’s Eve was relatively quiet elsewhere.
Police officials in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Scottsdale said they received no emergency calls for serious crimes.
The only other reported fatality of the night in the East Valley was in Scottsdale where a 22-year-old Phoenix man was ejected and killed in a roll-over crash in the 12200 block of East Rio Verde Drive.