Phoenix Police Department Releases Report on Shooting Death of Zachariah Pithan
The Phoenix Police Department released a report Wednesday on the shooting death of 22 year-old Zachariah Pithan by a Phoenix Police Officer on April 20, an incident the report characterizes as "justifiable homicide."
According to the report, four officers were on scene when the shooting occurred. They had responded to a report of fighting and of a door being kicked in at the Santa Fe Springs apartment complex on the west side, near 17th and Glendale Avenues.
Three, including the shooter, arrived around 9 p.m. that Sunday, and were directed to the third floor by a voice saying, "I'm up here."
Asked what the problem was, the voice, later identified as Pithan's, answered with a non sequitur "People keep breaking in."
The trio of officers approached Pithan's apartment, where the door was off its hinges. Pithan refused to come out of his apartment. As Pithan stood in his doorway, the officers tried to detain him.
Officer Andrew Williams grabbed one of Pithan's arms, and Pithan pulled him into the apartment, with the other two officers behind. A fourth officer would arrive just before the shooting.
There's a Rashomon element to the accounts of the incident from the various officers. The report describes several clubs or sticks on the floor of the apartment. The shooter tells investigators how he and Williams fought with Pithan.
"[The shooter] punched him in the face and he fell backwards," the report reads, paraphrasing the shooter's account. "Pithan picked up one of the `sticks' and started to come up. [The shooter] gave him a knee strike to the face at that time to drop the stick.
"Pithan picked up a second `stick' pointing straight up in the air and reared back toward him. He thought he was going to hit Williams or him in the face. As Pithan was coming up with the stick, [the shooter] pulled his gun and fired a shot. Pithan fell on his stomach. [The shooter] grabbed his right arm and handcuffed him."
Pithan actually took two bullets to the chest. The shooter could only recall one.
The shooter talks to his attorney before the interview ends, then adds this explanation:
"He did not use his Taser because Pithan was trying to kill them. He did not think the Taser would work in this situation."
Interestingly, Officer Emanuel Codreanu and Officer Christopher Joja, each of whom struggled with Pithan as well, believed that someone had deployed a Taser when they heard the "two pops" of their fellow officer's gun.
Joja "could not see anything in Pithan's hands," before he heard the pops. He was busy trying to restrain Pithan's legs.
Codreanu, who came in last, went to grab Pithan's legs as well, when he heard what he thought was "the muffled sound" of a Taser deployment. When he looked back, he saw the shooter holstering his gun.
Codreanu does not mention seeing anything in Pithan's hands. The report does not indicate that he was asked about this.