KINGMAN, Ariz. — Authorities have provided additional details of a police officer’s fatal shooting of a despondent citizen and identified him as a seven-year veteran of the Kingman Police Department.
Deputy Police Chief Rusty Cooper provided the new information Friday in a news release following an independent investigation of the Aug. 29 incident by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.
Cooper said a woman called 911 at 10:30 p.m., reporting that a white vehicle driven erratically and at a high rate of speed had nearly struck her vehicle.
Eight minutes later, Officer Evan Hopper spotted a white Lincoln Mark VIII stopped with its lights off in the middle of Broadway Avenue and stopped to investigate.
Cooper said a woman – later identified as 35-year-old Paula Phillips of Kingman — was standing outside the vehicle as Hopper moved to the rear to examine its license plate.
“While Hopper was standing behind the car, Phillips leaned into her car and grabbed a .410 break-action shotgun,” Cooper said. “Phillips began to turn and raise the shotgun towards officer Hopper, who gave commands to Phillips, directing her to stop and drop the gun.”
Cooper said Hopper opened fire in fear for his life, killing Phillips.
Officers discovered that the shotgun was loaded and its hammer cocked. Additional shotgun shells were found in Phillips’ pockets and her purse, Cooper said.
Investigators said Phillips apparently had been drinking and found “narcotic prescription drugs” in the vehicle and inside her purse.
Hopper’s lawyer, Brad Rideout, said his client fired in self-defense.
“He had to shoot,” Rideout said. “There was no option.”
Cooper said Phillips’ parents told investigators that she had been despondent over an abusive relationship that had ended, had been abusing drugs and alcohol and had attempted suicide several times.
Officer Hopper, who has no disciplinary record during his time on the force, returned to duty on Sept. 19. The sheriff’s office shooting investigation will be reviewed by the county Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether charges are warranted.