Outside look at Chandler police sought Lovelace fired; city exploiting case, chief's wife says
By Edythe Jensen
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 15, 2002
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Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn and at least three City Council members are calling for an independent review of the city's police department after the firing of an officer charged with murder in a civilian shooting.
Meanwhile, Judy Harris, the wife of Police Chief Bobby Joe Harris, accused city officials of silencing her husband and exploiting the shooting for political and personal reasons.
"It's not like the department is a bunch of dummies running around doing things. You plant a field and you get a few weeds. The bigger the field, the more weeds," she said in an interview.
Officer Dan Lovelace, 38, was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and endangerment Thursday by a Maricopa County grand jury in the Oct. 11 death of Dawn Rae Nelson, 35, of Ahwatukee Foothills, at a Walgreens drive-through window.
He was fired Wednesday after a Chandler Police internal affairs investigation found the shooting was not justified.
Copies of the internal affairs report offered a glimpse of Lovelace's state of mind.
In his final statement to investigators, he said: "I screwed up the department, everyone . . . for you, the chief, you guys treat me the best, I work hard, I'll take a bullet for anybody over here. I never wanted to hurt anybody. I never meant to do anything. I messed up. I messed up. I don't know. All I know is what I did. That's all I know is what I tried to do."
Lovelace shot Nelson as she sat in her car with her 14-month-old in the back seat, when he responded to a call that she tried to pass a forged prescription.
Councilman Phill Westbrooks said Thursday that he will seek a council vote next week to bring in an outsider to review the department. He is also demanding records of complaints, lawsuits and settlements against Chandler police for the past five years. The Lovelace case caps a series of police missteps in recent years.
Councilwomen Patti Bruno and Donna Wallace said Thursday that they would support an independent investigation.
Dunn had originally opposed an outside investigation of the Lovelace shooting, which was ultimately conducted by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. He had previously endorsed a review of the department, but had stopped short of calling for an outside review.
Bill FitzGerald, a county attorney spokesman, said his agency and most police departments keep lists of consultants and law enforcement experts to make reviews.
Judy Harris said the investigation is unnecessary, that the Chandler Police Department has already passed stringent outside agency reviews as part of accreditation proceedings.
In fact, she said, Chief Harris, who has headed the department since 1993, is scheduled be in Salt Lake City this weekend to accept accreditation accolades.
Said Dunn the city mayor, "We need to go beyond accreditation, to look at the operations of the police department."
Republic reporter Senta Scarborough contributed to this article.