PHOENIX (AP) — Three Phoenix police officers, including a rookie on his first night on patrol, were on a routine patrol in front of a convenience store when they became the target of an unimaginable attack.
A red sedan barreled toward the officers across the parking lot, slamming into two of them and smashing into the front of the store. An officer who managed to evade the crash ran up to the car and pulled the driver out. A struggle ensued. The rookie officer, still reeling from a head injury after getting hit by the car, deployed a stun gun to disable the man so he could be arrested.
The attack Tuesday morning left authorities searching for answers about the driver’s motivations and decrying it as an unprovoked assault on both police and public safety.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday. “When someone targets a police officer, it places the entire community at risk.”
A judge ordered Marc LaQuon Payne jailed on multiple counts, including suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage and resisting arrest.
Payne didn’t have an attorney who could comment on the allegations when he appeared in court Tuesday night after being treated at a hospital.
Two officers suffered serious injuries, but one of them was released from the hospital. The rookie officer remained hospitalized Wednesday for treatment of a concussion.
Court documents released Wednesday describe Payne as a transient who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.
An attached police probable-cause statement didn’t say whether Payne told police anything after the incident, and police did not immediately respond to questions related to a possible motive and other aspects of the incident.
The attack came during an especially violent year for police officers nationwide, including separate deadly attacks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas over the summer.
Police Chief Joseph Yahner denounced the Tuesday morning incident as a “violent, intentional act” in which officers were targeted.
Phoenix police released a store surveillance video of the incident. It showed a vehicle backing out of a parking space, circling the parking lot and then accelerating toward the officers.
The video shows the rookie officer thrown several feet in the air and hitting the front windshield of the suspect’s vehicle.
Deputy County Attorney April Sponsel said during the brief court hearing that Payne should be held without bond because he attacked the officers and posed a continuing threat to the public. He said the man needed to remain behind bars to protect the public and police “from individuals such as this, individuals who coldly attack officers.”
Payne did not speak in court other than to give his name in a tired-sounding voice when asked by the judge.
He slouched forward during the beginning of the hearing, resting his head on his left forearm. The judge asked him to “stand up, please” at one point, and he did.
Court records indicate that Payne was placed on probation after pleading guilty in 1998 to aggravated assault in a 1992 incident.
A former public defender who represented Payne in that case said she didn’t recall him or the case.