Family Says 911 Tape Caught Cops Planning Cover-Up After Shooting
PHOENIX (CN) - A homeowner says a Phoenix police officer shot him six times in the back during a 911 home-invasion call, and the 911 tape recorded the officer's partner saying, "That's all right. Don't worry about it. I got your back. ... We clear?" The family says the officers were not aware that the 911 call was still recording as they spoke about covering up the shooting.
In their complaint in Maricopa County Court, Anthony and Lesley Arambula say an armed intruder "crashed through the front window" of their home on Sept. 17, 2008 and ran into one of their son's bedrooms.
Anthony, worried about his son who was still in his bedroom, says he "held the intruder calmly at gunpoint" and called 911.
Phoenix Police officers already in the neighborhood heard the crash of the Arambulas' window. When they approached the house, Lesley says, she told Sgt. Sean Coutts that her husband was inside holding the intruder at gunpoint. Lesley says Coutts failed to pass on that information to the two other officers.
Inside the house, the Arambulas say, Officer Brian Lilly shot Anthony six times in the back while he was still on the phone with the 911 operator - twice when he was on the ground.
The officers ran into the bedroom after Anthony told them, "You just killed ... you just killed the homeowner. The bad guy is in there."
The complaint states that Officer Lilly "admitted that it was only after Tony was laying, bullet-ridden, on the ground that he assessed the situation. The 911 tape continued to record what happened even after Officer Lilly unloaded his weapon into Tony, including Officer Lilly's post-shooting, one-word 'assessment': 'Fuck.'
"Tony believed he was going to die; the 911 tape records his plaintive goodbye to his family: '... I love you ... I love you.' Then Tony made what he believed was a dying request to the officers; he did not want his young family to see him shot and bloodied. Officers callously ignored his request and painfully dragged Tony by his injured leg, through the home and out to his backyard patio, where they left him bloodied and shot right in front of Lesley, Matthew and Zachary."
The Arambulas say the officers later dragged Anthony onto gravel, then put him on top of the hot hood of a squad car, and "drove the squad car down the street with Tony lying on top, writhing in pain."
According to the complaint, Lilly can be heard on the 911 tape telling Coutts, "We fucked up."
Lilly says on the tape that he did not know where Anthony's gun was when he shot him and that he "opened fire because he heard loud noises and saw someone who looked like he might be the 'Hispanic' male they were pursuing" before getting to the Arambulas' house, according to the complaint.
The complaint states: "Sgt. Coutts knew that officers has just shot up and likely killed an innocent homeowner and the husband of Lesley, with whom he had spoken before entering the home, instead of the armed intruder. Sgt. Coutts was quick to commence the cover-up of their terrible mistake. Sgt. Coutts asked Office Lilly where Tony's gun was at the time Officer Lilly had opened fire on Tony. Officer Lilly admitted that he did not know where Tony's gun was: 'I don't know. I heard screaming and I fired.'"
Lilly later told a police internal affairs investigator that Anthony had pointed his gun in his direction, "in the 'ready' position," the complaint states. But Anthony Arambula says he was facing away from the officers, who could not have even seen his gun.
The complaint continues: "Still not knowing that he is being recorded n the 911 tape, Sgt. Coutts interrupted Officer Lilly's admission and apology with his assurance that the cover-up would commence: 'That's all right. Don't worry about it. I got your back. ... We clear?'"
After the shooting, the Arambulas say, the Phoenix Police Department treated them "like suspects in a drug bust," denying Lesley, Michael and Zachary information about Anthony's condition and denying friends and family members access to him at the hospital.
Anthony Arambula survived, but continues to suffer pain, which he expects will last for the rest of his life.
The City of Phoenix and Officer Dzenan Ahmetovic also are named as defendants.
The Arambulas seek punitive damages for gross negligence, civil rights violations, failure to supervise, excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, false arrest, and emotional distress. They are represented by Michael Manning with Stinson Morrison Hecker.