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Phoenix police officer Nick Erfle was shot and killed Tuesday morning by 22-year-old Erik Jovani Martinez. Martinez is a Mexican national with a a lengthy rap sheet, including a felony warrant for his arrest for aggravated assault. Immigration officials confirm Martinez was deported in March of 2006 on theft charges and later re-entered the country illegally.
Representative Russell Pearce said the State needs to be pro-active in enforcing laws to prevent more crime at the hands of undocumented immigrants. "Why do we have to wait 'til they kill somebody, kill a police officer before we arrest them and deport them?" he asked. Rep. Pearce said Ofc. Erfle's death stresses the need for tougher immigration laws. "Every day you pick up the paper, turn on the news, there's another citizen being killed by an illegal alien," said Rep. Pearce. "This business of they're just coming here for jobs is garbage."
But ASU's Director of the Immigration Clinic, Evelyn Cruz, said a person's tendency to commit crime has nothing to do with their legal status. "The reality is that whether a person has criminal tendencies has been shown, study after study, to not be connected to a person's immigration status," said Cruz. "But rather connected to socio-economic realities in that person's particular life or an incidence of abuse in their family."
Rep. Pearce said police need officers need to be able to question a person's immigration status and enforce deportation. But Prof. Cruz said the key to preventing crime lies in going after the factors that help create it, such as poverty, lack of education and lack of good parental upbringing. She said only then will crime go down.
Officer Nick Erfle was shot after he and his partner approached three people for jaywalking and obstructing traffic on 24th Street, one block north of Thomas Road.
One man gave a fictitious name that had a misdemeanor warrant and as they attempted to take him into custody, the suspect drew a weapon and shot Officer Erfle twice in the back of the head. He was rushed to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center where he died from his injuries an hour later.
The suspect then carjacked a vehicle and took the driver hostage. About an hour later, an unmarked special assignments unit spotted a car and suspect matching the carjacked vehicle's description.
They began surveillance and managed to box in the vehicle at 27th Avenue and McDowell Road. The suspect pointed his gun at the hostage and he was shot and killed by an officer. The suspect was later identified as an illegal alien with a felony record. He had been deported in 2006 and illegally re-entered the country.
The driver of the vehicle was not injured. The two females who were with the suspect when he was initially stopped were taken into custody for questioning.
Officer Erfle had served with the Phoenix Police Department for 8 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
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