Posted: 6/3/2008 12:00:05 PM EDT
'Everything he did was top-notch'
Wounded officer dies; suspect placed on $2.5M bond
By Alexis Huicochea and Carol Ann Alaimo
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.03.2008
Tucson police Officer Erik Hite died at 12:53 p.m. Monday, one day after he was shot in the head during a crosstown pursuit.
As Hite was disconnected from life support and died with his family by his side, Tucsonans were drawn to the Northeast Side spot where he died to leave flowers, American flags and cards. When Hite's body was taken from University Medical Center, local law-enforcement officers cleared the route by blocking intersections and saluting their fallen comrade.
On Monday, Mayor Bob Walkup ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff to honor Hite's memory.
David Nickolas Delich, the 25-year-old Tucson man accused of shooting Hite as well as two Pima County sheriff's deputies, admitted to being the gunman, according to court documents.
He is being held on one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a law-enforcement officer with a firearm, and two counts of discharging a firearm at a structure.
Prosecutors had requested that Delich be held on $5 million bond, but Presiding Tucson City Court Judge Tony Riojas set it at $2.5 million.
Pima County sheriff's Deputies Eric Cervantez and Tory Schwartz also were shot during the pursuit but have been released from UMC, said Deputy Dawn Hanke, an agency spokeswoman.
Served in Air Force
Before joining the police force, Hite served in the Air Force for 21 years, retiring as a master sergeant, police said.
News of Hite's death lighted up phone lines and e-mail in-boxes around the country as former Air Force colleagues contacted each other to share the news.
"I'm devastated. I'm having a hard time with this," said Hite's last military boss in Tucson, Col. Bob Mahood, his voice breaking.
"I can just see him so vividly," Mahood said. "He was such a fantastic human being in every way."
Mahood, now at Air Combat Command in Langley, Va., is a former commander of the 25th Operational Weather Squadron, a weather-forecasting unit at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where Hite spent the last few years of his military career.
Before arriving at D-M in late 1999 or early 2000, Hite served for many years in Air Force security — essentially as a military police officer. His first assignment in Tucson was with D-M's 355th Security Forces Squadron.
In late 2000, Hite became a first sergeant. The demanding position required him to be on call around the clock giving guidance and practical help — and, if necessary, dispensing discipline — to scores of airmen under his authority.
First sergeants, also called "first shirts" in the military, are responsible for the day-to-day welfare of troops in their individual units — anything from arranging financial help for airmen heavily in debt to setting up marriage-counseling sessions to attending the scenes of crimes or auto accidents involving unit members.
It was a job Hite volunteered for and one that had him working directly for Mahood as a liaison between the commander and the enlisted staff of the weather squadron.
Hite exuded professionalism and positive thinking, and he earned the respect of everyone he came in contact with, Mahood said.
"Everything he did was top-notch. He just had a big smile all the time. He was super-polished; he always looked smart, crisp and starched.
"I don't know how he kept his attitude up like that. I couldn't have done his job," the colonel said.
"He was one of those people you hate to see leave the Air Force because they have so much to offer."
But by 2004, Hite was ready to say goodbye to the transience of military life and put down roots in Tucson, where he had dreams of joining the Police Department.
"He wanted to stop moving and settle down," Mahood said.
When Hite retired from the Air Force, he asked Mahood, then at the Pentagon, to conduct his retirement ceremony. Mahood flew to Tucson on his own time, at his own expense, to preside over the service at D-M.
Master Sgt. Jim Fisher, a D-M spokesman, said Hite earned several meritorious-service medals at D-M and deployed to the Mediterranean in support of military operations in Iraq.
After leaving the military, Hite joined the Tucson Police Department, where he had at least one other run-in with an armed suspect and was injured on duty.
Star archives say that in March 2005, while Hite was doing paperwork in his patrol car, he noticed a couple arguing in the street and went over to talk to them, but the woman threatened him, saying he would pay if he didn't leave them alone.
Hite drew his gun after the woman reached behind her back, police said at the time. He called for backup when the man took off running.
Hite chased the man and tried to grab him, but the woman got into a van and struck Hite with it at a slow speed. He was not seriously injured. The woman, who was arrested, had a steak knife in her pocket, police said at the time.
Hite is survived by his wife, Nohemy; their daughter, Samantha, who has yet to turn 1 year old; his adult son, Roy; his parents, Roy and Mary Jane Hite; his birth mother, Patsy Hansen; his sisters, Nevada Benton and Royleen Mahie; and his brother, Sean Hite.
Hite's family declined an interview request.
Hite and his wife were members of Saguaro Canyon Evangelical Free Church in Tucson.
Pastor Neil Watson said of Hite: "He was devoted to his wife and family, and was passionate about his family and his God. He loved being a police officer. He lived his life by example and walked the walk."
As news of Hite's death spread through Tucson Monday, people who were caught up in Sunday's shooting spree were still stunned.
"Thank God I wasn't home"
Police said Delich drove from his Northwest Side house around the corner to the 8400 block of North Placita de la Manzana and fired into two residences.
When bullets ripped through the door of Kevin Burch's home on Sunday morning, he was at work.
"Thank God I wasn't home," Burch, a funeral director, said as he stood in his bullet-riddled home. "I don't know what his intentions were, but he came here for a reason. He certainly took time to put a lot of bullets through my door."
Garland Gist, who lives a few homes away from Burch, was getting ready for church when he heard several pops. "I asked, 'What's going on?' and my wife said, 'There's a man out here with a gun,' " Gist said.
Gist peered out of an upstairs window and saw a man with a gun. The man had backed up his Mustang into the cul-de-sac and was standing directly in front of Burch's door, firing dozens of rounds before stepping away.
The gunman made his way to a residence two doors down and unloaded on the home, striking the garage and a wall on the second story, Gist said.
"It was really eerie, because it seemed like he ran out and he just stopped, looked up around and then casually walked back to his car and drove away slowly," Gist said.
Nobody was injured in the initial shootings.
According to police and sheriff's officials, here is what happened next:
A sheriff's deputy spotted Delich a few miles away, at North Oracle and West Magee roads, and began chasing him. Near Oracle and West Ina Road, the suspect fired, hitting Deputy Cervantez in the right shoulder.
Despite being hit, Cervantez, who has been with the department for seven months, continued the chase south on Oracle but lost track of the suspect.
Deputies on the East Side picked him up again near East River and North Swan roads. A chase continued, with several officers trailing the red Mustang, including Tucson police officers who got involved after seeing the suspect near Udall Park.
Farther ahead, west of North Houghton Road on Tanque Verde Road, officers laid down tire-stop sticks. Before he hit them, Delich made an abrupt left turn, heading north onto a side street called North Tomahawk Trail.
At 10:27 a.m., as Tucson police officers approached, Delich shot Officer Hite, hitting him once in the head. Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda said Hite was "ambushed."
Authorities found him again driving up the Catalina Highway on the way to Mount Lemmon. At Milepost 1.5, he shot at Deputy Schwartz, an eight-year veteran, grazing him in the head.
More than an hour after the incident began, Delich pulled off the road near the Molino Basin campground and gave up.
Burch said that he had only one contact with Delich, whose backyard is across from Burch's.
The confrontation occurred about 3 1/2 weeks ago when Burch was barbecuing, he said.
"He jumped on the wall and was complaining about the smoke from the barbecue," Burch said. "He was very calm, but there was one thing he did say to me that was very odd."
Burch said Delich asked him, "Why are you copying me?" Burch asked Delich "What do you mean?" and Delich repeated the question.
At that point, Burch told Delich again that he didn't know what he meant, to which Delich responded by "giving the finger."
"I told him: 'You need to go away, go into your house. You need to leave me alone,' " Burch said. "I don't know if that pissed him off, but obviously . . ."
On a MySpace page that Delich's old acquaintances say belonged to the suspect, there is a photo of an unsuspecting Burch sitting in his backyard. The caption reads, "This man . . . should paint a target on his forehead."
Burch was shocked when a Star reporter showed him the photo.
"I didn't report him to the police because I didn't feel threatened by him then," Burch said. "I reported him to the homeowner's association just to make them aware that I had a problem with him.
"He was just a very, very strange person. . . . This is spooky."
For the record, I think the arresting officers exercised great restraint in bringing this piece of shit in. I woulf have popped his ass on the street and called the coroner to scoop his body up.
I hope someone shoves a mop handle up his ass till he looks like he has wooden teeth.
He'll fit right in with the nation of islame in prison.
I hope the county attorney does not fuck this up and let him get off.
No one want to discuss this.
CoC prevents saying what should be done with this POS.
for the officer & his family.
Video of someone poking around his myspace page AFTER he was in custody (interesting because it shows someone online 6/3/2008)
Okay, what's his name on Arfcom???
Delich possessed guns taken from him in '04
Someone should have taken the fucker out.
what the fuck
RIP officer. Another fallen hero.