Quartzsite arson fire

The Parker Fire Department’s ladder truck sprays water on a double-wide that was set on fire the evening of May 1 in Quartzsite. The Parker FD joined the Ehrenberg and McMullen Valley Fire Departments in assisting the Quartzsite Fire Department in battling two arson fires. The suspect in the fires shot and wounded a Quartzsite police officer and was later shot and killed himself.

FINAL UPDATE, May 7

Two arson fires May 1 in Quartzsite led to a pair of shoot-outs with police officers that left the suspect dead and a Quartzsite Police officer injured.

The injured officer has been identified as Keyan Weltha, 34. He was taken to Havasu Regional Medical Center. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said he is recovering and is in good spirits. He’s also thankful for the support he’s received.

According to DPS spokesperson Kameron Lee, the sequence of events began at 10:41 p.m. May 1, when the Quartzsite Police Department received calls of two structures on fire in the area of 110 N. Washington Street. Victims from one of the homes were able to identify the suspect and provided a description of the suspect’s vehicle.

Quartzsite Fire Chief Kevin Hess said three structures were damaged. The suspect set fire to his own travel trailer, and the fire from that spread to another travel trailer. He then set fire to the double-wide that was home to the manager of the RV Park, Beverly Cunningham, and her husband, George.

One of the fires damaged a power transformer, and power was out for several hours on Washington Street. Hess said Arizona Public Service crews told him the transformer and its pole were okay, but lines leading to and from the transformer were damaged. They had power restored by noon the next day.

Lee stated the Quartzsite Police Department contacted the DPS and asked for troopers to assist in the search for the suspect.

The suspect was located in the area of the western Quartzsite interchange with Interstate 10, Exit 17. The suspect allegedly fired at the QPD officers and DPS troopers, hitting Weltha. In a press release, the DPS said one of their troopers fired at the suspect while the other got the Quartzsite officer to safety.

A DPS press release described what happened after Weltha was shot:  “The suspect then fled north from the area of the shooting to another area where he had previously set up a strategic advantage of cover, utilizing a block wall and his vehicle for protection. Additionally, he set up multiple weapons including rifles, a handgun and ammunition. Troopers attempted to negotiate with the suspect but were unsuccessful. Troopers then engaged the suspect, who was shot. On-scene trooper/paramedics attended to the suspect who ultimately succumbed to his injuries.”

The DPS is handling the investigation of the incident. As of Saturday, the name of the suspect had not been released.

Hess thanked the Parker, Ehrenberg and McMullen Valley for sending crews and equipment in support. He said Parker’s ladder truck was put to good use on the double-wide that was damaged. He said firefighters were warned to duck behind their trucks if the suspect’s vehicle was seen on the streets. He added that, given how heavily the suspect was armed, it could have been a lot worse than it was.

This is the third incident in less than a year where suspects have died or been killed following stand-offs with police in Quartzsite, and the fourth in La Paz County. In September 2017, a traffic stop on Interstate 10 led to a chase and the suspect stealing a semi-truck. It ended with a shoot-out on West Main Street where the suspect was shot and killed by officers.

In November, A Phoenix man accused of killing his neighbor opened fire on an officer at a La Paz County highway rest stop, setting off a shootout with law enforcement that left the suspect critically wounded, authorities said. Sladjan Petkovic, 36, was released from the hospital in January and was booked on charges relating to his neighbor’s death and the shootout.

On Jan. 9, 2018, a suspect wanted for child abuse in Ohio killed himself following a stand-off with U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Land Management Rangers and La Paz County Sheriff's Deputies. The suspect had barricaded himself in his camper in a BLM campground.

This is the first time a Quartzsite officer has been shot in the line of duty since May 17, 2007. Officer James Kemp was shot during a traffic stop on a motor home. Although injured, Kemp was able to return fire and later recovered. The suspect in the incident, Gregory Allen Cole, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound May 23, 2007 in the desert north of Quartzsite.

Cole was also the suspect in the disappearance of an Oregon couple he had socialized with, Kenneth W. Miller and Mary Lou Japel. They were last seen in June 2006. Their pick-up truck was found in Montana, but the license plates were found on Cole’s motor home. On June 6, 2007, a body identified as Miller was found in a rural area of Oregon.

UPDATE, 9:30 A.M. MAY 3

Two arson fires in Quartzsite led to a pair of shoot-outs with police officers that left the suspect dead and a Quartzsite Police officer injured.

According to Kameron Lee of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the sequence of events began at 10:41 p.m. May 1, when the Quartzsite Police Department received calls of two houses on fire in the area of 110 N. Washington Street. Victims from one of the homes were able to identify the suspect and provided a description of the suspect’s vehicle.

The Desert Messenger website said the suspect allegedly pointed a gun at the owners of one of the homes when they saw him trying to set fire to their porch.

One of the fires damaged a power transformer, and power was out for several hours on Washington Street.

Lee stated the Quartzsite Police Department contacted the DPS and asked for troopers to assist in the search for the suspect.

The suspect was located in the area of the western Quartzsite interchange with Interstate 10, Exit 17. The suspect allegedly fired at the QPD officers and DPS troopers, hitting a QPD officer. In a press release, the DPS said one of their troopers fired at the suspect while the other got the Quartzsite officer to safety.

The injured officer was taken to Havasu Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.

A DPS press release described what happened next:  “The suspect then fled north from the area of the shooting to another area where he had previously set up a strategic advantage of cover, utilizing a block wall and his vehicle for protection. Additionally, he set up multiple weapons including rifles, a handgun and ammunition. Troopers attempted to negotiate with the suspect but were unsuccessful. Troopers then engaged the suspect, who was shot. On-scene trooper/paramedics attended to the suspect who ultimately succumbed to his injuries.”

No names have been released as of Wednesday afternoon. The DPS is handling the investigation of the incident.

This is the third incident in less than a year where suspects have died or been killed following stand-offs with police in Quartzsite, and the fourth in La Paz County. In September 2017, a traffic stop on Interstate 10 led to a chase and the suspect stealing a semi-truck. It ended with a shoot-out on West Main Street where the suspect was shot and killed by officers.

In November, A Phoenix man accused of killing his neighbor opened fire on an officer at a La Paz County highway rest stop, setting off a shootout with law enforcement that left the suspect critically wounded, authorities said. Sladjan Petkovic, 36, was released from the hospital in January and was booked on charges relating to his neighbor’s death and the shootout.

On Jan. 9, 2018, a suspect wanted for child abuse in Ohio killed himself following a stand-off with U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Land Management Rangers and La Paz County Sheriff's Deputies. The suspect had barricaded himself in his camper in a BLM campground.

**********

The Quartzsite Police and Fire Departments are investigating some incidents that took place overnight May 1-2. According to media reports, two cases of arson on residences on N. Washington Street led to a shoot-out with the police that left one officer injured and the suspect dead. The shooting occurred on West Main Street near the western interchange with Interstate 10 (Exit 17). As of 8 a.m., the section of Main Street west of McDonald’s was closed. Power was out on N. Washington Street as a transformer was damaged in one of the fires. The Pioneer will have more information when it becomes available.

The Associated Press had this story on the incident:

"QUARTZSITE, Ariz. (AP) - Authorities say a suspect who set two houses on fire and then shot and wounded a police officer in the western Arizona desert community of Quartzsite is dead after being shot by state troopers.

Trooper Kameron Lee says the officer was seriously wounded when troopers and police located the suspect early Wednesday morning. The suspect then was shot by troopers at another location after negotiations were unsuccessful.

Lee said the incident began Tuesday night when police responding to the house fires were told the suspect set the fires before driving off.

According to Lee, one trooper dragged the wounded officer to cover as another trooper returned fire during the initial shooting.

No identities were released and Lee says additional information about circumstances of the incident aren't immediately available."

This is the third incident in less than a year where suspects have died or been killed following stand-offs with police in Quartzsite. In September 2107, a traffic stop on Interstate 10 led to a chase and the suspect stealing a semi-truck. It ended with a shoot-out on West Main Street where the suspect was shot and killed by officers.

On Jan. 9, 2018, a suspect wanted for child abuse in Ohio killed himself following a stand-off with U.S. Marshals, BLM Rangers and La Paz County Sheriff's Deputies. The suspect had barricaded himself in his camper.

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(2) comments

irene jett

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jtruly

What is the moral education?

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