Tucson Police Department officials still seek answers after the shooting death of a colleague, which has left the law enforcement community reeling.
Following a Sunday morning rampage that began in the Northwest, four-year police veteran Erik Hite died Monday afternoon from a gunshot wound to the head. Hite was 43 years old and the father of two, including a 1-year-old child. Flags are flying at half-mast throughout the city, and a fund to help Hite’s family has been established at Wells Fargo locations.
Alleged gunman David Nickolas Delich, 25, a Northwest resident, also wounded two Pima County Sheriff’s deputies during the spree. Delich faces nine felony charges, and is being held in a Pima County jail on a $2.5 million bond.
According to the sheriff’s department, at 9:45 a.m. Sunday, neighbors near the 8400 block of North Placita de la Manzana, at Thornydale and Cortaro Farms roads, called 911 to report that a man was shooting at houses. In fact, a shooter riddled the front door of the home of Kevin Burch, a funeral director who was away Sunday morning, with nearly two dozen bullets. Burch’s backyard borders that of Delich, and they had an apparent confrontation some weeks earlier, according to published reports.
Deputies came to the scene, but the suspected gunman already had fled. Neighbors gave a description of a camouflage-clad man fleeing in a red convertible with the top down.
Deputy Eric Cervantez spotted the suspect, later identified as Delich, near the intersection of Oracle and Ina roads. From his vehicle, Delich fired several rounds on Cervantez, who shot back. Delich escaped unharmed, but Cervantez took a bullet to the shoulder. Gunfire also struck the deputy’s car.
Sheriff’s officials said the injured deputy, who was treated at a Tucson hospital and later released, continued with the chase, but his hobbled vehicle was unable to keep up. Cervantez lost sight of Delich near River and Oracle roads.
Fellow deputies soon spotted the suspected gunman near River and Swan roads. Tucson Police Department officers joined the chase at Morris K. Udall Park, near the intersection of Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon roads.
While driving eastbound on Tanque Verde, Delich again fired shots at officers. The errant bullets missed their marks, nor did they damage property, said Tucson Police Capt. Clayton Kidd.
Delich continued eastbound along Tanque Verde near Catalina Highway, where Kidd said he fired at the pursuing officers twice more.
Possibly seeing a roadblock police had set up near the intersection of Houghton Road and Tanque Verde, Delich turned northbound into a neighborhood along Tomahawk Trail, Kidd said.
Delich stopped his car to lay in wait for police. As Officer Hite approached, Delich fired at him, striking him in head, Kidd said.
Fellow officers tried to resuscitate Hite until the Tucson Fire Department arrived. Firefighters and paramedics furiously continued their lifesaving efforts as Hite was airlifted to University Medical Center.
Delich fled the scene, eventually reaching Catalina Highway, where he started up the mountain road.
The suspect again fired at police, grazing the head of Sheriff’s Deputy Tory Schwartz, who was treated at a Tucson hospital and later released.
After driving a few miles farther, the suspected gunman surrendered to police at Molino Basin, near Milepost 5 on Catalina Highway, ending the cross-town shooting spree. The entire incident lasted a little more than an hour.
Kidd said Delich had no known warrants for his arrest, and said investigators do not know what may have motivated his rampage.
In postings on a MySpace Web site page attributed to him, Delich makes reference to plans. Within a mix of Arabic expressions, and commentary on relationships, the alleged shooter writes “hello to all my friends. I am ok, safe, and have a good plan.”
“ … we’ll see who gets shot and killed. And that is a threat to you pigs. Every one,” Delich wrote on Feb. 22.
“soon i plan to kill many police officers.”
The alleged gunman was taken to the Pima County Adult Detention Center, where he remains. Delich faces nine felony counts, among them first-degree murder, and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.