CASA GRANDE — The Pinal County Attorney’s Office will not be filing criminal charges against three Casa Grande Police officers who were involved in the October 2020 shooting death of an Arizona City man, and an investigation found the use of deadly force was justified.
On the evening of Oct. 22, 2020, Francisco Danny Flores, 30, was shot by three Casa Grande officers after he failed to pull over for a traffic stop, led officers on a 10-minute slow-speed chase around town and then pulled what turned out to be a pellet gun on officers when he did stop near Wood Street and Melrose Drive. Casa Grande Police Officers Richard Rush, Andrew Egan and Sgt. John Tena all fired their weapons at Flores, killing him.
The March 2021 letter detailing the Pinal County Attorney’s Office decision was attached to a nearly 500-page Arizona Department of Public Safety report investigating the shooting at the request of the Casa Grande Police Department, which was released to PinalCentral last week. PinalCentral has requested a comment from the Police Department.
The DPS report found that the three officers were justified in using deadly force.
The DPS report includes interviews with at least 14 different people including five Casa Grande Police officers, a Casa Grande Police sergeant, a Casa Grande Police corporal, two Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies and five witnesses who said they heard the gunshots and saw what happened after Flores was shot.
According to the report, a Casa Grande Police officer attempted to pull over Flores’ vehicle around 9:18 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2020, near Third Avenue and Florence Street for an expired license plate tag. Flores refused to stop for the officer, driving at speeds between 20 and 40 mph in circles through mostly residential neighborhoods near Casa Grande City Hall and into the west side of the city. At one point, the pursuit briefly reached speeds of about 55 mph on Pinal Avenue.
Several officers involved reported that they attempted to get ahead of the pursuit in an effort to lay down spike strips that would deflate Flores’ tires, but in nearly every case, the pursuit turned in a different direction.
Several officers also told DPS investigators that Flores didn’t appear to want to hurt anyone while fleeing from police. They said that speeds in the pursuit were slow, about 30 to 40 mph, and that several times Flores slowed and used a turn signal before rolling through stop signs.
One officer told investigators that it didn’t seem like Flores wasn’t out of control, like some pursuit suspects. He just didn’t want to stop for officers.
During the 10-minute pursuit, Flores nearly hit two Casa Grande Police vehicles. The first near-collision happened when Flores drifted into the northbound lane of Center Avenue and nearly hit a Casa Grande Police vehicle. The officer had to turn onto the dirt shoulder in order to avoid hitting Flores’ vehicle.
Flores nearly hit a second Casa Grande Police vehicle when officers boxed him in a dead-end parking lot near Casa Grande City Hall. In order to evade officers, Flores made a U-turn in the parking lot, drove at and then around a Casa Grande Police vehicle, jumped a curb and drove over the lawn of The Garnet of Casa Grande.
Flores continued to drive in circles, making random turns before eventually pulling to a stop at 9:28 p.m. on Wood Street near its intersection with Melrose Drive.
Flores then got out of his car and pointed what officers said looked like a black handgun at Rush, who was one of two Casa Grande officers in the vehicle that was directly behind Flores’ vehicle when he pulled over. The other officer in Rush’s vehicle was Egan. Rush, Egan and Tena, who arrived at the scene at nearly the same time, opened fire on Flores. A fourth officer who also arrived at the scene seconds before the shooting said he heard one of the other officers announce “He’s got a gun!” but because of where he was standing, he did not have a clear shot at Flores and did not fire his weapon.
All three officers, Rush, Egan and Tena, told investigators they did not believe they had time to grab their stun guns. They told investigators that it took seconds for Flores to exit the vehicle and point the pellet gun at Rush. They stated they felt their lives and the lives of the other officers were in immediate danger.
After Flores fell to the ground, he still appeared to be pointing his gun at an officer and officers fired again until the gun fell from his hand. At least a couple of officers called for medical aid and reported shots fired before officers approached Flores, kicked the gun away from him, handcuffed him and started first aid. Officers also found a knife on Flores. Emergency medical personnel from Casa Grande Fire Department and American Medical Response arrived at the scene a couple of minutes later, according to call logs for the incident. Flores was declared dead about 20 minutes later by a Banner Casa Grande Medical Center doctor.
The gun later turned out to be a pellet gun that did not have orange safety markings at the end of the barrel, which are used to alert others that the gun is not a lethal weapon, according to the report. In their interviews with DPS investigators, several law enforcement officers who were at the scene reported seeing the gun and described it as a black semiautomatic handgun.
A photograph of the pellet gun at the scene was included in the report next to a photo of a Ruger handgun. The two guns look very similar.
The report found that Tena fired at least seven rounds from his gun, Egan fired 14 rounds and Rush fired around 18 rounds. The three officers who fired their weapons did not recall seeing Flores fire his gun. All three officers who fired their weapons were driven from the scene to the Casa Grande Police station shortly after the shooting.
The Pinal County medical examiner noted in his report that he found 13 wounds, some of which were caused by bullet fragments, and four bullets in Flores’ body. An additional bullet was found on a sheet next to Flores’ body. He also found evidence of methamphetamine in Flores’ system.
Investigators found four bullets inside Flores’ vehicle, two bullets inside one nearby home, a bullet in another nearby home and at least six bullet strikes to a couple of homes near the shooting scene.
Investigators also spoke with several witnesses who lived near the intersection where the shooting took place. One witness was a woman who told investigators that she saw the shooting from her window and that Flores exited his car, put his hands in the air and did not have a gun in his hands when he was shot by police. She told investigators that officers didn’t call out any orders for Flores to freeze or drop a gun. She also claimed that a K-9 officer that arrived at the scene seconds after the shooting took place let his dog loose on Flores.
A man who lived in the same house said he heard the gunfire but did not see the shooting because he was inside his home. He told investigators that he did not hear officers give Flores commands to stop or drop his weapon.
Investigators found no evidence of the woman’s claims. The K-9 officer told investigators that he took his dog out of the vehicle when he arrived at the scene and then put the dog back in his vehicle so he could help officers with medical treatment for Flores. He told investigators that he never let go of the dog.
All three officers who fired at Flores described seeing a gun in his hand pointed at one of the officers. A couple of officers who arrived seconds after the shooting and who helped put Flores in handcuffs stated that they saw a gun under his left leg when they first approached him. A pellet gun was found and collected as evidence at the scene.
A couple of neighbors also told investigators that they heard officers shout commands to Flores. The officer Flores pointed the gun at told investigators that he told Flores to “Stop!” as soon as he saw the gun; other officers at the scene also reported hearing commands for Flores to drop his weapon.
According to the report, Tena had been with the department since 1989, Rush since 2010 and Egan since 2017.