A man shot in the head while sitting at a midtown bus stop was the victim of an "unprovoked homicide," Tucson police said Wednesday in announcing an arrest.
The suspect had gotten out of jail just a week before on another unprovoked attack, police said.
Eric Jones, 21, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the Monday afternoon shooting death of Robert Chance, 41.
Chance was waiting at a bus stop at Broadway and Alvernon Way to catch a bus to his job at a gas station and market, where his employer remembers him as a friendly, outgoing man.
Police Capt. Michael Gillooly said Jones and Chance did not know each other. Gillooly said many witnesses - other people waiting for the bus and people using a nearby walking and jogging path around Reid Park - told detectives that "the suspect stood up and shot the victim once in the head."
"They were each sitting on two separate benches that were side by side.
"We were shocked by this brazen attack in broad daylight," said Gillooly, the commander of the crimes against persons division.
Jones had been arrested Sept. 20, accused of slashing a man's throat downtown at West Sixth Street and North Church Avenue, seriously injuring him, Gillooly said.
He said Jones was released from jail in that incident on Sept. 26 because the charge was dismissed by the Pima County Attorney's Office. It was dismissed, said Gillooly, because the victim was reluctant to take part in the prosecution.
"He was very friendly"
"Robert's death is just sinking in," said Blaise Ciardulli, manager of the Valero Corner Store at East 22nd Street and South Park Avenue, who hired Chance in June.
"He was very friendly and loved to talk to customers. We can't believe what happened to him, and as the word gets out, people are coming to the store and asking if it really was him who got killed at the bus stop," Ciardulli said.
"People are very sad. He was my friend, and I am going to miss him," Ciardulli said.
Chance, who worked as a cabdriver before, loved to listen to rock 'n' roll on his MP3 player, was single and had no children. Most of his family lived in Sacramento, Calif., Ciardulli said.
100 MPH in a stolen car
After the shooting, which occurred around 3 p.m., the shooter ran southeast into a neighborhood, and police scoured the area by helicopter and on foot with dog units into the evening. He was not found.
Later Monday night, an off-duty Tucson police officer was driving home on Interstate 10 near Marana when he saw a vehicle "pass erratically traveling at over 100 miles per hour," Gillooly said.
"He attempted to follow and get the car's license plate when he saw a DPS officer on a traffic stop," Gillooly said. "He got the attention of the officer who followed the speeding car, and the off-duty officer also followed to assist," he said.
The car, which was reported stolen at 9:30 p.m. Monday from a house near East Broadway and Harrison Road, was pulled over and stopped at about 10 p.m., Gillooly said.
Jones was taken into custody and booked into the Pima County jail on suspicion of auto theft and for illegally possessing a handgun, which was found in the car, Gillooly said.
Meanwhile, detectives working the Chance homicide located videotape Tuesday that placed Jones at the bus stop shooting. Through the video, it was determined Wednesday morning that Jones was the man connected to the shooting, and detectives learned that he had been arrested by the DPS Monday night, Gillooly said.
"We feel very confident he is culpable for this crime. There were also other items found in the car of evidentiary value that are linked to the murder," Gillooly said.
One of those items was the handgun, Gillooly said. He would not reveal information about the other items.
"Eight detectives worked this case hard for the last day and a half," Gillooly said.
Police said Jones, a Santa Rita High School graduate, has a lengthy criminal history, including narcotics violations. Jones also was involved in an incident in which he assaulted several police officers, Gillooly said.
Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at email@example.com or 573-4104.