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UA doctor stops assault, kills suspect

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 20, 1999

Dr. Richard Carmona, a Pima County Sheriff's deputy and UA faculty member, shot and killed an enraged motorist Saturday night who was reportedly attacking a woman after a rear-end collision, police said yesterday.

Carmona, a consulting physician at the University of Arizona Campus Health Services and a 14-year sheriff's deputy, stopped at an automobile accident at East Grant Road and North Campbell Avenue.

Sgt. Brett Klein, a Tucson Police Department spokesman, said a small Toyota truck traveling east on Grant rear-ended a Dodge Intrepid at the intersection of Grant and Campbell at about 5:51 p.m. on Saturday.

The driver of the truck, Jean Pierre Lafitte, of the 6300 block of West Huxley Drive, started to back up, prompting the Dodge driver to walk up to him.

"She was walking up to him to get his information because she thought he was going to leave," Klein said.

Klein said the woman was next to the truck when Lafitte got out.

"He got out and starting shaking and assaulting her," Klein said. "Then he pulled out a gun from the truck and she ran away."

At that moment, Carmona pulled up to the area to see if there were any injuries, Klein said.

Klein said people started yelling to Carmona that the man had a gun, so Carmona went back to his vehicle and retrieved his Pima County Sheriff's Department-issued gun.

Carmona identified himself as a law enforcement official and told the man to put down his gun, Klein said.

"The suspect put the gun down, then picked it back up and fired at the doctor," Klein said.

The bullet shattered the rear windshield of Carmona's vehicle, he said.

"The doctor returned fire, hit the suspect and the suspect went down," Klein said.

Police are not sure how many shots Carmona fired at Lafitte.

Lafitte was transported to University Medical Center and pronounced dead at 7:39 p.m., Klein said.

Carmona's attorney, Mike Piccarreta, said Carmona's actions were not only justified but heroic.

"If but for him, who knows how many other people would be hurt?" Piccarreta said. "Any other person wouldn't have known what to do. He had 14 years of training behind him."

Piccarreta said Carmona was on his way to work at the UA football game when he saw the accident.

According to Piccarreta, Carmona saw an individual in the truck slumped over the steering wheel and the doctor parked next to the truck to help.

When Carmona heard people yelling that the man in the truck had a gun, he got back in his vehicle, drove about 40 feet in front of the truck and retrieved his gun and badge, Piccarreta said.

Carmona then told Lafitte to put down the gun, but Lafitte never dropped the gun. Instead, he slowly lowered it to the ground and then raised it and fired at Carmona, Piccarreta said.

He added that Lafitte fired at least two bullets at Carmona because one grazed him and another bullet shattered the rear windshield of his car.

Piccarreta said Carmona's actions are clearly justified. He said Lafitte ignored repeated commands to put his gun down, was glaring at Carmona and acted like he was going to drop his gun, but then fired it.

"It's not only justified, one would be foolish not to protect your own life," Piccarreta said.

Deputy James Ogden, a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said the Tucson Police Department is handling the investigation of the shooting and Pima County is reviewing the administrative procedures.

Ogden said the department will start the review this week.

Klein said once the investigation is complete, the department will hand the case to the Pima County Attorney's Office for review.

Carmona is currently on administrative leave with pay until all the investigations are complete, Piccarreta said.

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