Records show troubled past for suspect in Arizona shootings

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 7:58 PM
Records show troubled past for suspect in Arizona shootings

PHOENIX (AP) — An ex-convict accused of killing one person and wounding five others in a series of shootings in a Phoenix suburb has a history of substance abuse and criminal convictions dating back more than 20 years.

A day after the shootings, a picture is beginning to emerge of the troubled past of Ryan Giroux, who had sought treatment for drug use and expressed a desire to turn around his life, including getting at least two facial tattoos — one believed to be associated with white supremacy — removed.

"The defendant stated he wants to change his life around and begin to have his facial tattoos removed as well as the tattoos on his hands," said a report filed in May by authorities before he was found to have violated his probation in a shoplifting case that turned violent.

The 41-year-old made his initial court appearance Thursday as authorities tried to figure out what triggered the rampage that led to an hourslong hunt for the gunman. Investigators also released the identities of the shooting victims.

The string of crimes Wednesday included a motel shooting, a carjacking and a home invasion and ended with Giroux's arrest at a vacant apartment. The motive for the motel shooting was unclear, but the other three shootings appeared motivated by robbery and the suspect's attempt to flee, police said.

Giroux, whose bond was set at $2 million, is jailed on suspicion of murder and other crimes. Efforts to identify a lawyer representing Giroux who could comment on the allegations against him were not immediately successful.

His criminal convictions in three states date back to 1993. He was convicted in metro Phoenix on theft, burglary and marijuana possession charges. He also was convicted for burglary, theft assault and theft in California and for robbery in Washington.

In all, he served more than eight years in Arizona prisons, including an attempt aggravated assault conviction for fighting with two Mesa police officers in 2007 when they tried to arrest him for shoplifting a bag of potato chips at a convenience store.

Police say Giroux tried to reach for a .45-caliber handgun in his waistband during the struggle with officers. Giroux denied reaching for his gun and claimed officers beat him.

After his late 2013 release from prison, Giroux was ordered to spend two months in county jail for violating his probation. Officials said he used or possessed methamphetamine and marijuana and failed a drug test after his release.

They noted that Giroux was able to get a medical marijuana card but he had sought substance abuse and mental health treatment. Court records say Giroux has used cocaine, heroin, LSD and methamphetamines off and on for the past 20 years.

An undated Arizona prison mug shot shows the word "skinhead" tattooed where his eyebrows normally would be.

A mug shot from his arrest Wednesday shows that at least two of Giroux's facial tattoos — one that resembled a goatee and another bearing the numbers "88" — have been removed. It also showed a bloodied and scraped up Giroux, who was injured while struggling with officers.

Some tattoos, including the "88" that was on his left temple, are associated with white supremacy, said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups but doesn't list Giroux in its database.

Wednesday's shootings started with an argument inside a motel room that spilled outside, leaving David James Williams, 29, dead and two women wounded, police said. The women were Williams' mother, Lydia Marie Nielson, 51, and Jessica Lee Burgess, 19.

The gunman then allegedly shot Isaac Martinez, 20, who was working at a nearby restaurant. Martinez, a culinary student at the nearby East Valley Institute of Technology, ran across the street to emergency responders at the motel. Martinez has been released from a hospital.

The gunman fled the restaurant by carjacking a school instructor's car.

Police say the man then went to an apartment complex about 2 miles away, where he went into an apartment and shot Donavon Worker, 24. Worker is expected to survive.

An officer then found Marcus Butler, 25, in a neighboring apartment building with multiple gunshot wounds. Police said Butler was in critical but stable condition Thursday and is expected to recover.

Two witnesses told police that a man was with Giroux when Giroux fired into a motel room. One witness said the unidentified companion grabbed Giroux by the shirt "and told him they needed to leave the area," according to a document filed by authorities.

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Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.