Chandler’s homicide rate increased in 2020 - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler’s homicide rate increased in 2020

February 1st, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler’s homicide rate increased in 2020

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Last year was one of Chandler’s deadliest in recent history with the city recording 11 homicides.

Chandler Police have not reported that many deaths in the last decade, according to data published by the FBI.

Chandler had four homicides in 2019, 2018 and 2016 and five in 2017. The decade’s deadliest year had been 2010, when six homicides occurred.

Despite its rise in violent deaths, Chandler Police reported a decline in burglaries, assaults and thefts in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Overall, the city has been experiencing a decline in crime rates for the last few years – making 2020’s homicide rate stand out as a bit of an anomaly.

When examining each death investigation from last year, there’s not much of a pattern that could illustrate some sort of crime trend. Some deaths were premeditated, some were allegedly accidental and some were seemingly random.

It’s unclear whether the pandemic and its economic repercussions had any impact on Chandler’s death rate since the circumstances surrounding some cases are ambiguous.

But COVID-19 has been cited for the spike in homicides elsewhere – including Phoenix, where police reported that even before 2020 ended, there was a 52 percent increase in murders – fueled by a 175 percent increase in domestic violence homicides. It also said homicides were up by 20 percent over 2019.

Phoenix’s increase in homicides was higher than increases recorded in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. Nearly three-quarters of all homicides in Phoenix involved a firearm, the report adds.

Other large cities also reported significant increases in homicides in 2020 while property crimes nosedived – the result of what some experts said came from so many Americans staying home during the pandemic.

According to the Council on Criminal Justice, homicide rates jumped 32 percent during the pandemic and assaults increased by 11 percent in most American cities.

One of the keys to bringing violent crimes back down, the council believes, will be to reduce the pandemic’s impact on local law enforcement.   

“City leaders continue to face policy challenges posed by the recent rise in violent crime,” the council’s report states. “Several evidence-based strategies are available to address the increase in violence but subduing the COVID-19 pandemic also remains a necessary condition for reducing violence.”

During the first couple months of the pandemic, Chandler Police reported noticing a spike in vehicle thefts and domestic violence calls.

Many law enforcement officials throughout the state have said they expected domestic violence to become more prevalent in 2020 since residents were forced to spend more time at home with abusive family members.

Some of the deaths reported in Chandler last year appear to have started out as a fight between domestic partners.

Ben Beasley, 35, was shot and killed by his girlfriend on Aug. 8 outside her home near Pecos and McQueen roads. The couple had been arguing and Beasley allegedly threatened to harm his girlfriend before she shot him.

A domestic dispute call turned deadly back on March 13 after Rosario Alvarado, 41, threatened to cut his girlfriend with a knife.

When police officers arrived at the scene, Alvarado allegedly ignored commands to put down his firearm and was shot at multiple times. He died at the hospital a couple days later.

The gruesome death of Amy Leagans on Oct. 27 reportedly started out as a fight with Timothy Sullivan, whom she had met through a mutual friend.

Sullivan admitted to strangling and killing Leagans inside her Chandler apartment during their fight. He later dismembered her body and disposed of her remains in the desert after first burying her in Scottsdale and then digging up the body for fear of discovery.

Other Chandler deaths were committed while in the process of completing another crime.

Amber Joy Patton, 34, was killed on Sept. 19 by a pair of 16-year-old boys at her residence on Augusta Avenue before the suspects took off in her vehicle. Her murder ended up being one of several felonies committed by the suspects during a month-long crime spree across the Valley.

The death of Bobby Sanchez on Oct. 5 started out as a drug transaction between a group of men outside an apartment complex on Arizona Avenue. Sanchez ended up getting shot and four men were later arrested for their involvement in his death.

Jordan Sullivan, 21, originally set out to steal a car on April 9 outside a Circle K in south Chandler and inadvertently ended up with a murder charge.

Sullivan shoved an elderly man pumping gas outside the convenience store and fled in the victim’s vehicle. The man later died from injuries sustained during the carjacking, resulting in prosecutors adding a homicide charge to Sullivan’s indictment.

Not all homicides were murders, however.

The officer-involved shooting of Kevin Smallman on Jan. 27 began as an investigation into a stolen vehicle. A Chandler officer attempted to arrest Smallman inside the stolen car but the suspect tried to drive off with the officer still hanging on the vehicle.   

The officer eventually fired his gun at Smallman and the car crashed into a block wall, leaving the felon dead.

Some deaths reported last year still have a shroud of mystery wrapped around them.

The motive behind Danita Hunter’s death on Aug. 29 is not yet publicly known and remains unclear. The 47-year-old mother was allegedly shot by Nozre Ware, 22, at the victim’s residence.

Ware had allegedly visited Hunter’s residence several times previously but his relationship to the victim or his motive for killing her has not been disclosed.