All three officers survived the incident, which took place at 1:45 a.m. Tuesday.
(Warning, the content is graphic.)
The driver, Marc LaQuon Payne, 44, was booked into jail on three charges of first-degree attempted murder. Police said impairment may have been a factor in the crash.
Hours later, the Phoenix police chief denounced the incident as “an unprovoked, violent, intentional act.”
“These officers could have easily been killed and I thank God that we’re not planning three funerals right now,” Police Chief Joe Yahner said at a news conference Tuesday. Before he showed local media outlets surveillance footage of the crash, he paused. “I gotta warn you … it’s graphic as heck,” he told them.
Four surveillance cameras captured the incident from different angles as it unfolded. About 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, Payne drove an Altima into the QuikTrip, a busy gas station just off the Interstate 17 highway in central Phoenix.
Footage showed Payne stopping at a gas pump, then putting his car in reverse and parking it on the west side of the parking lot.
For several minutes, police said, Payne sat in his car with the headlights off. Then, suddenly, he flashed his headlights on and began accelerating toward the store, directly toward the officers.
His car struck the group and came to a stop after it shattered the glass entrance to the convenience store.
The department has not named the three officers involved, but identified the one who was run over first as a 41-year-old sergeant with 18 years on the force. He suffered a broken leg and is resting at home, police said.
Another officer, a 36-year-old man, has eight years of experience and managed to escape the oncoming vehicle, police said. This officer sustained minor injuries after he ran over and fought to detain the driver, police said.
Police said the officer who was sent flying air is a 33-year-old man who sustained a head injury; it was his first day on his assigned squad.
“[The new officer] flies about eight feet in the air, smashes into the front glass of the QT and goes down,” Yahner said. “… Unbelievable, our officer that hits the front of the glass and smashes the glass, gets back up, engages in a fight to take the suspect in custody. [The suspect] runs over us and then he still fights with us as we’re trying to take him into custody.”
Police later told The Washington Post that a Taser was used to subdue Payne and take him into custody.
The video showed several civilians at the gas station rushing over after the crash. No other bystanders or gas station employees were reported injured.
A woman who answered the phone at the QuikTrip location Wednesday morning referred all questions to the chain’s corporate office, which did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Yahner’s comments pointed to an increasing tension between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 67 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty this year as of July 20, an increase over the 62 officers killed in the same period last year. The nonprofit group’s mid-year report noted a troubling increase in some of those deaths occurring in “ambush” attacks.
“Our Phoenix police officers were targeted. We have all heard about officers being targeted and ambushed in communities across the nation,” Yahner said. “But this happened here. This happened in Phoenix. This happened to your Phoenix police officers. It’s unacceptable.”
Payne, shirtless and silent, avoided answering reporters’ questions as he was booked into jail Tuesday, several local news stations reported. Arizona court records show that Payne pleaded guilty to three charges of aggravated assault in 1998 but has maintained a clear record since then. According to ABC 15 News, detailed court documents showed Payne attacked three Phoenix police officers during a traffic stop that year.
Payne is being held without bond until his next court appearance, scheduled for Sept. 20, records show.
As news of the crash spread, some articles online tried to connect Payne to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The head of the Phoenix chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement told ABC15 News that Payne was not in any way connected with their cause.
“At this time, we vehemently deny knowledge of this person,” the Rev. Reginald Walton told the news station.