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Wed, May 27

Officer shot while responding to call in Cottonwood

An officer examines a crime scene Wednesday evening near Birch and 15th streets in Cottonwood. A Cottonwood police officer suffered non-life threatening injuries and one person was taken into custody during a Wednesday evening altercation, according to a news release. (Photo/Vyto Starinskas)

An officer examines a crime scene Wednesday evening near Birch and 15th streets in Cottonwood. A Cottonwood police officer suffered non-life threatening injuries and one person was taken into custody during a Wednesday evening altercation, according to a news release. (Photo/Vyto Starinskas)

COTTONWOOD — The May 6 evening altercation that led to gunfire and the wounding of an officer was the third time Cottonwood police had been called to the residence that day.

At about 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to the 1400 block of East Birch Street for the report of a man who was demonstrating erratic behavior and threatening others with physical violence, according to a news release from Cottonwood Police Department.

Officers identified the man as 57-year-old Jeffrey John Thomas of Cottonwood.

Residents in the area advised officers that Thomas' erratic behavior had escalated over the past few weeks.

Due to his unusual behavior, CPD called the Mobile Behavioral Crisis Team to assist with a mental health evaluation. Based on the Crisis Team’s on-scene evaluation, a petition was filed authorizing detention of Thomas for further evaluation.

Officers later attempted to serve this order on Thomas. After multiple attempts to get him to exit his residence, Thomas was given a chance to deescalate and officers decided to return later that day.

At about 7:45 p.m., officers were again called to the area for a report of a suspicious man who was reportedly “charging vehicles passing by him.” Witnesses said the man was holding what appeared to be a flagpole.

Officer Matt Strickland was one of the first officers on scene. The man, discovered to be Thomas, was attempting to conceal himself behind a bush when officers arrived.

Initially, Strickland believed Thomas was carrying a flagpole. However, Thomas ran toward his residence, with officers following, and after a short foot pursuit began making statements saying the officers were there to kill him.

As the officers followed, Thomas fired a weapon at Strickland, striking the officer in his left arm. It was later determined that Thomas had hidden a shotgun under the makeshift flag.

Officers were able to take cover and exchanged gunfire with Thomas.

Verde Valley SWAT responded to the scene, and within an hour Thomas surrendered without further incident.

Based on Thomas’ actions leading up to the shooting, and statements made to investigators, it is believed he intended to ambush the arriving officers.

Thomas was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde. He is charged with second-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault on law enforcement, aggravated assault, unlawful discharge of a firearm and endangerment.

He is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Strickland sustained non-life threatening, though serious injuries to his arm.

He is a six-year veteran of the Cottonwood Police Department.

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