Authorities have provided additional details of the shooting death of a despondent citizen and identified the involved police officer as Evan Hopper, a seven year member of the Kingman police department.
A news release issued by Deputy Kingman Police Chief Rusty Cooper provides information extracted from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office independent investigation of the August 29th incident.
Cooper said a woman called 911 at 10:30 p.m. that evening, reporting that a white vehicle driven erratically, and at a high rate of speed, almost struck the vehicle she was driving. Eight minutes later, Cooper said Hopper stopped to perform a welfare check on a white Lincoln Mark VII stopped with its lights off in the middle of Broadway Avenue, just off Stockton Hill Road.
Cooper said a woman was standing outside the vehicle as Hopper moved to the rear to get a look at its license plate. 40 seconds later, Hopper fired four times, striking Paula Phillips three times. The 35-year-old Kingman woman was dead at the scene.
“While Hopper was standing behind Phillips’ car, Phillips leaned into her car and grabbed a .410 break action shotgun,” Cooper said. “Phillips began to turn and raise the shotgun towards officer Hopper, who gave commands to Phillips, directing her to stop and drop the gun.”
Cooper said Hopper opened fire in fear for his life.
Cooper said officers discovered that the shotgun was loaded and its hammer was cocked. Additionally, shotgun shells were found in Phillips’ pockets and her purse.
“Investigators noticed the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Phillips’ person,” Cooper said. “Investigators also found assorted narcotic prescription drugs inside the vehicle and inside Phillips’ purse.”
Brad Rideout, an attorney representing Hopper, said his client was justified in firing in self defense.
“He had to act,” Rideout said. “He had to shoot. There was no option.”
Cooper said the morning after the shooting her parents told investigators that Phillips had been despondent and depressed over an abusive relationship and that she had been abusing drugs and alcohol and had attempted suicide on several previous occasions.
“They had last spoken to their daughter on the telephone at 10:00 p.m.and knew that she was intoxicated, using drugs and may want to harm herself,” Cooper said. He said the Lincoln belonged to Phillips’ father and that he provided her the shotgun for protection from the ex-boyfriend.
Officer Hopper returned to police duty on September 19. The sheriff’s office shooting investigation will be reviewed by the Mohave County Attorney’s office.