Gilbert Officer Rico Aranda is steadily improving from head injuries sustained April 29 in a violent confrontation with a car thief that left a Chandler police officer dead, Gilbert Police said.
Gilbert Police on May 3 said Aranda "is responding well to treatment and we expect him to be transferred within a couple days out of ICU and into neurological treatment and recovery."
Gilbert Police last week identified the suspect who triggered the deadly climax to a chase that began in Eloy and ended at the San Tan Motorplex in Gilbert as Jonathan Atland, 25, of Tolleson. He was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries sustained in the confrontation and has been charged with murder, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft, police said. He has been released from the hospital and is in the County Jail on a $3 million bond.
Officer Christopher Farrar, an 18-year veteran Chandler policeman who had been assigned to the K9 division, was struck and killed during that confrontation with Atland on April 29. He was killed and Aranda injured when Atland committed an "intentional attack" at the autoplex with a second stolen vehicle after police had surrounded the building following a high-speed chase from Eloy.
Chandler Police announced that a public viewing will be held 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 7, at Compass Christian Church, 1825 S. Alma School Road, Chandler, which also will host a memorial service at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 8. The service will be open to the public but space will be is limited. Further details regarding parking and overflow will be provided at a later time. The service also will be streamed live on the Chandler Police Facebook page.
A gofund.me account has been set up for Aranda gofund.me/afda31c1 and Gilbert Police stressed this is the only official place to donate for his benefit. A separate fundraising effort has been launched for Officer Farrar's family by The 100 Club, which helps the families of officers killed in the line of duty. That fundraiser can be reached at 100club.org/donate.
The gofundme account showed an outpouring of support for Aranda with three quarters of the $100,000 goal already raised by Saturday afternoon.
In newly released information, Gilbert Police alleged that Atland was initially stopped in a stolen pickup truck near Eloy, but fired several shots at Pinal County Sheriff's deputies and sped off along SR 87 with police in hot pursuit. Atland crashed through a fence at Chandler Airport and "then attempted to evade officers by driving in opposing lanes of traffic on surface streets and on and off from the 202 Santan Freeway," Gilbert Police said.
Atland then crashed through the fence of San Tan Ford and "was able to gain access to the building through an open roll-up door to the maintenance area of the dealership where custodial staff were working," police said.
Officers from Gilbert, Chandler, Pinal County and DPS surrounded the building and "discharged their weapons as a result of the suspect attempting to run them over after crashing through the bay door," police said. He then struck a parked car that then struck Aranda before being taken into custody shortly thereafter.
Chandler officers are in mourning over the loss of Officer Farrar, whose body was escorted by a Chandler motorcycle police in a pre-dawn cavalcade from Chandler Regional Medical Center to the downtown Phoenix offices of the County Medical Examiner Friday morning.
“Every day he came to work, he made a difference,” an emotional Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan said of Officer Farrar at a pre-dawn press conference Friday. “In the course of 18 years, he touched many lives.
“So I just ask that you keep Chris’ family in your prayers and just take a moment and remember and be mindful of the brave men and women who are out there daily helping to keep our community safe.”
Three Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies and four DPS troopers shot at the suspect
Officer Farrar was described as a dedicated public servant and his work was acknowledged in 2010 after his agency honored him with its “Community Service Award.”
He held multiple positions throughout the department during his career, including the patrol division, the bicycle team, and his current position as a K-9 Officer.
"Christopher received numerous commendations and accolades from community members, business owners, co-workers, and supervisors during his career," the department said in a release. "He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor in 2004, the Community Service Award in 2009, the Spotlight Award in 2019, and a four-time recipient of the Lifesaving Award.
Officer Farrar is survived by his mother and father, brother, sister, daughter, two sons and grandchild. "He was a son, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, and dedicated police officer," the department release said.
Funeral and memorial arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
Tributes and expressions of sympathy for Officer Farrar flooded social media.
“It’s just tragic,” said Chandler Councilman Matt Orlando. “These guys and gals put their life on the line every day and we just got to keep supporting them and making a better police force.”
Police departments across Arizona lowered their flags half-mast and paid tribute to him, as did numerous local and state officials.
“My heart aches for the family of this officer,” wrote a man on a Gilbert community Facebook page. “These men and women are true heroes. They wake up every day and put their life on the line to protect and serve. May he RIP.”
It has been seven years since a member of the Chandler Police force was killed on the job, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization.
With his death, Chandler Police now have lost five officers who died while performing their job.
Chandler Police also recorded a death of one of their own in January not directly linked to his line of work. Officer Tyler Britt, a 19-year member of the force, died from complications of COVID-19.
In Mesa, two officers have died in the line of duty, the last in 1994 and Tempe Police has seen five officers die with the last death in 2006.
The last Gilbert officer to die on duty was Lt. Eric Shuhandler, who was fatally shot in 2010 when he stopped a vehicle occupied by two men near the intersection of Val Vista and Baseline roads in Gilbert.
A wild chase ensued before police captured the killers after a gunfight on US60 near Superior. Both killers are serving life sentences.
In 2006, Gilbert Officer Rob Targosz died after his motorcycle was struck by a drunken driver at the intersection of Price Road and Apache Boulevard in Tempe during a DUI checkpoint exercise.
To date, according to the memorial page, Arizona has lost 264 law enforcement officers in the line of duty since the 1880s.
In the state, Phoenix Police Department led with the most fallen officers at 41, followed by Arizona Department of Public Safety with 30.
For 2021 so far, 118 law enforcement officers have died nationwide, according to the memorial page.
And since 1776, there have been 24,870 known line of duty deaths in America, the memorial page stated.