If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix…
-Hunter S. Thompson
Phoenix, AZ is something of a paradox to me, because I’ve never met anyone from there that I didn’t like, but I also never want to spend a single second there. Two of my closest friends live in the Phoenix metro area, but you’d never catch me going out to visit them, because they come from the land of 110 degree summers, Sheriff Joe and Dierks Bentley. And now, as if to prove me right, comes along the newest, best reason to avoid the Arizona Capital area: the killer loose in the Maryvale neighborhood.
Starting on April Fool’s Day of this year, a series of violent, motiveless shootings have taken place in Maryvale – a working class, heavily Latino neighborhood on Phoenix’s West Side. The victims of the attacks are random, and are not related to each other or know one another, but the attacks themselves share some similarities. They all occur at night, all in a small section of the city, and all the victims are people out after dark, usually either sitting outside their homes or in cars. This pattern has led law enforcement officials and local news sources to dub the killer the “Serial Street Shooter,” which isn’t quite “Night Stalker” or “Son of Sam,” but what are you going to do?
No specific suspects have been named, but witnesses describe the killer as a lanky male, about average height and either light-skinned Hispanic or white. The main car associated with the killings is a black BMW, but other cars have been linked to the killings, leading some to speculate that the killer works in a garage or at a car dealership. He is believed to be local to the Maryville area due to the ease with which he navigates the streets and escapes after each shooting. Victims are chosen at random and have included a 12-year-old girl and a man waiting in his car to go on a date.
This isn’t the first time Phoenix has been victimized by thrill killers. As recently as last year, a highway sniper along the I-10 fired on passing cars with a handgun over a month-long period. Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was arrested, but he was released this year when the charges were dropped. Even worse was the Baseline Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who was eventually connected to 9 murders as well as a litany of sexual assaults and kidnappings, so-named because his attacks took place around Baseline Road; Mark Goudeau terrorized Phoenix between 2005 and 2006. However, what the recent slayings most resemble are the Serial Shooters who shot at the people of Phoenix during the same timeframe as the Baseline Killer. The two men arrested for the shootings, Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman, killed 8 people in over 30 random shootings, as well as two arson attacks at Wal-Marts. These attacks share shocking similarities to the current Maryvale shootings.
The killer has not struck in over a month, but police warn that he is still at large and dangerous. There was a similar gap in attacks before his most recent attack on July 11, in which a 22-year-old man and his young nephew narrowly escaped. This victim got a better look at the attacker and his car, which he said was a black BMW.
The Phoenix police are still actively looking for tips in the case, and have gone as far as to implore folks to come in regardless of immigration status. This is a cruel irony, because the Maricopa County police department has a famously poor relationship with the Latino community due to their discriminatory practices. Now, the police find themselves unable to do their jobs effectively because of the deep damage that they themselves have done to the community.
Police urge residents to stay off the streets alone, especially at night, as the shooter is almost certainly still at large. Friends in Phoenix, stay safe and stay alert, and keep on the lookout for sketchy black BMWs.