PHOENIX — A Phoenix police officer and firefighter both died Sunday after suffering critical injuries in separate accidents on the job, officials said.
Police said Officer Daryl Raetz, 29, was conducting a DUI stop on a vehicle in west Phoenix when another vehicle struck him at about 3:30 a.m. and then fled the scene. Raetz, an Iraq war veteran who became a Phoenix police officer six years ago, was taken to a hospital where he later died.
A day earlier, 23-year-old Phoenix Firefighter Bradley Harper was critically injured while fighting a mulch fire. The Arizona Republic cited Sgt. Tommy Thompson in reporting that Harper was moving equipment at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday when he was pinned between two emergency vehicles. He died Sunday of his injuries.
Mayor Greg Stanton said Sunday would go down in history as a "tragic day" for Phoenix.
"It's incredibly important that this community show its full support, not only for the families of our deceased heroes so they understand how important the service (was) of these two men dedicated to the safety of the city," he said, "but it's also important that the living officers and the living firefighters see the community pull together so that they know that when they go out every day and risk their lives, they do so with the full support of the citizens of this city."
The hit-and-run collision that killed Raetz happened as he was standing in the roadway and was wrapping up the DUI stop. He is survived by a wife and young daughter.
Authorities said late Sunday afternoon that police in Surprise located the SUV that hit him and are working to identify the driver.
"When our officers are out there, part of the danger we face is just processing the scene," Thompson said, "particularly in a DUI scene such as this, and then (to) have another individual strike one of our officers who's out there doing his job."
Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia described the loss as "gut-wrenching."
"This is every officer's nightmare," he said. "I honestly don't have the words to describe the sorrow in my heart for Daryl Raetz and his family. He was one of Phoenix's finest, one of our heroes who was out there every day (serving) the community."
The police and fire unions planned to organize fundraisers for Raetz's and Harper's families, said Joe Clure, representative for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com