PHOENIX — Three Phoenix police officers, including a rookie on his first night on patrol, were taking a break in front of a convenience store when they became the target of an attack.
A car barreled across the parking lot toward the officers, slamming into two of them and smashing into the front of the store. An officer who escaped getting hit ran up to the car and pulled out the driver. A struggle ensued.
The rookie officer, reeling from a head injury after the careening car sent him flying through the air, managed to deploy a stun gun to disable the man.
The attack Tuesday 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.”
Two officers suffered serious injuries, but both have been released from the hospital.
A judge has ordered Marc LaQuon Payne to stay behind bars on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage and resisting arrest.
Payne, whom police said seemed impaired by drugs or alcohol, could face more charges when the results of a blood analysis come back, Sgt. Jonathan Howard said.
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.
Court documents describe Payne as a transient. He has not provided investigators with a motive, Howard said.
The attack comes during an especially violent year for police officers nationwide, including separate deadly attacks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas over the summer.
Phoenix Police Chief Joseph Yahner denounced the crash as a “violent, intentional act” in which officers were targeted.
Authorities released a store surveillance video that shows a vehicle backing out of a parking space, circling the parking lot and then speeding toward the officers. The rookie officer is thrown several feet in the air and hits the front windshield of the car.
Deputy County Attorney April Sponsel said during Tuesday’s brief court hearing that Payne should be jailed without bond because he attacked officers and posed a threat. She said the public and police needed to be protected “from individuals such as this, individuals who coldly attack officers.”
Payne did not speak in court other than giving 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. At one point, the judge asked him to “stand up, please,” 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.