Arizona this weekend is mourning the loss of a veteran Chandler police officer who was killed in the line of duty during the deadly climax of a chase that began in Eloy and ended at a Gilbert auto multiplex.
Officer Christopher Farrar, an 18-year veteran Chandler policeman who had been assigned to the K9 division, was struck and killed by an unidentified man who had stolen a pickup truck in Pinal County the evening of April 29.
Officer Farrar is the first East Valley officer killed in action this year and apparently the first police officer in Arizona this year to die in the line of duty.
An unidentified Gilbert police officer was in critical condition at the time of the Arizonan’s deadline. He too was struck by the suspect, who is in custody.
“Every day he came to work, he made a difference,” an emotional Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan said of Officer Farrar at a pre-dawn press conference Friday. “In the course of 18 years, he touched many lives.
“So I just ask that you keep Chris’ family in your prayers and just take a moment and remember and be mindful of the brave men and women who are out there daily helping to keep our community safe.”
Tributes and expressions of sympathy for Officer Farrar flooded social media.
“It’s just tragic,” said Chandler Councilman Matt Orlando. “These guys and gals put their life on the line every day and we just got to keep supporting them and making a better police force.”
Chandler Vice Mayor Mark Stewart offered his sympathies to the officer’s family and said “Christopher served our great city with honor and pride for 18 years and he will be missed tremendously."
Police departments across Arizona lowered their flags half mast and paid tribute to him, as did Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Jack Sellers, Chandler Chamber President Terri Kimble and numerous other officials.
Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson issued a statement saying, “We would like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Chandler Police Officer Christopher Farrar who tragically lost his life in the line of duty.”
Gilbert Police did not release the name of its injured officer, who suffered a severe head injury.
The pursuit occurred around 10:11 p.m. Thursday when a Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy attempted a traffic stop on State Route 87 north of Eloy, according to a Gilbert police news release.
“The suspect vehicle fled from the deputy and fired gun shots at the deputy as he was in pursuit,” the release stated.
“The pursuit continued into Chandler where the suspect drove into the Chandler Airport runway by breaking through the city’s security gates. The suspect then fled onto the 202 San Tan Freeway driving the wrong way.”
Police said the suspect then exited the freeway where he eventually crashed near the Val Vista Drive eastbound on-ramp and fled on foot into the San Tan Ford dealership lot.
Pinal County deputies, Department of Public Safety troopers and Chandler and Gilbert Police surrounded the building.
The suspect then stole a vehicle from the dealership and attempted to flee the lot.
In doing so, the suspect hit Officer Farrar, the Gilbert officer and a car dealership janitorial employee, who walked away with minor injuries. Two DPS troopers also were injured, according to the Arizona Troopers Association.
“The troopers have non-life-threatening injuries,” DPS spokesman Bart Graves said. “I cannot go into any other detail.”
Three Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies and four DPS troopers shot at the suspect, injuring him.
The suspect was taken into custody where he was transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, according to the release. The suspect’s name was not released Friday morning by deadline.
Officer Farrar was described as a dedicated public servant and his work was acknowledged in 2010 after his agency honored him with its “Community Service Award.”
In 2006, he was presented with a medal after he and another officer rescued a woman who was contemplating suicide.
“Officer Farrar served the Chandler community for nearly two decades and was taken far too soon,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, whose district includes parts of Chandler.
The public also shared their grief over the loss.
“My heart aches for the family of this officer,” wrote a man on a Gilbert community Facebook page. “These men and woman are true heroes. They wake up every day and out their life on the line to protect and serve. May he RIP.”
It has been seven years since a member of the Chandler Police force was killed on the job, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization.
With his death, Chandler Police now have lost five officers who died while performing their job.
In 2016, Officer David Smith Payne was killed after a drunken driver rear-ended his police motorcycle, which was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Pennington Drive.
And, Officer Carlos Luciano Ledesma was killed in 2010 while conducting an undercover narcotics operation at a home in Phoenix, according to the officer memorial site.
Before him, there was Officer Robert Nielsen, who was killed in an automobile accident while responding to another accident call in 2002. His death was one of more than a hundred officers’ deaths that occurred because of design defaults in Ford Crown Victorias, a then-popular patrol car.
Chandler Officer James Snedigar was fatally shot in 1999 while performing a SWAT raid on armed robbery suspects near Priest Drive and Ray Road.
Chandler Police also recorded a death of one of their own in January not directly linked to his line of work. Officer Tyler Britt, a 19-year member of the force, died from complications of COVID-19.
The last Gilbert officer to die on duty was Lt. Eric Shuhandler, who was fatally shot in 2010 when he stopped a vehicle occupied by two men near the intersection of Val Vista and Baseline roads in Gilbert.
A wild chase ensued before police captured the killers after a gunfight on US60 near Superior. Both killers are serving life sentences.
In 2006, Gilbert Officer Rob Targosz died after his motorcycle was struck by a drunken driver at the intersection of Price Road and Apache Boulevard in Tempe during a DUI checkpoint exercise.
In Mesa, two officers have died in the line of duty, the last in 1994 and Tempe Police has seen five officers die with the last death in 2006.
To date, according to the memorial page, Arizona has lost 264 law enforcement officers in the line of duty since the 1880s.
In the state, Phoenix Police Department led with the most fallen officers at 41, followed by Arizona Department of Public Safety with 30.
For 2021 so far, 118 law enforcement officers have died nationwide, according to the memorial page.
And since 1776, there have been 24,870 known line of duty deaths in America, the memorial page stated.