Stuck in Circle K, witness recounts officer-involved shooting scene

Stuck in Circle K, witness recounts officer-involved shooting scene
Witness to the officer involved shooting, Renfro (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - He was one of 11 people in the midtown Tucson convenience store as chaos unfolded outside the glass.

It's a work day Gene Renfro will never forget, as he packed up his pop-up tent for his Stand Up Wireless business on the corner of Gr ant Road and Alvernon Way. It was also a moment for him to decompress emotionally from the scary scene.

"I heard the officer yell 'freeze!' I looked over and saw the other officer hit him with a Taser. Evidently, he d ropped his knife and went down and then got back up. The other officer took a step back and yelled 'freeze' again. I guess the guy evidently kept going because they fired two shots," Renfro told Tucson News Now.

His work partner saw and heard an officer fire the shots. Portions of the intersection were closed Tuesday afternoon, May 8, following the deadly officer-involved shooting.

"(The suspect) was flagging down vehicles. Trying to talk to people in their vehicles, yelling that he was going to stab somebody," said Tucson Police Department Sergeant Pete Dugan. "As they got close to the front doors of the Circle K, that's where the confrontation started. One of the officers fired."

Renfro had a front row seat.

"(I was) getting soda. Getting soda for my partner and I, and all this happened. I'm like, okay," he said.

He was inside, and was one of several witness caught in the dangerous situation, close enough to see the suspect's weapon.

"Yeah, the knife was about that long. It had at least a 12-14-inch blade on it," Renfro said, holding up his hands.

The aftermath of the officer-involved shooting was taxing on those who saw it. When Renfro talked to Tucson News Now, it was three hours after the 1 p.m. reported shooting.

Renfro spent those three hours stuck inside the Circle K convenience store, unable to leave or go in and out, as he was a witness among the other eight customers and two store clerks.

"Nobody was talking," he said. "We weren't allowed to talk to each other. We couldn't talk to each other at all. We had to remain separated and silent until the detectives talked to us."

What he saw was valuable information to police who were investigating. He gave detectives his statement and was allowed to leave the scene.

Renfro said the suspect never made any attempt to get at them inside the store.

At the end of his work day, he's even putting himself in the officers' shoes.

"They feared for their lives and I don't blame them," he said. "After seeing the knife I would've done the same thing."

Police have identified the suspect but have not released his name, pending notification of next-of-kin. He was transported by ambulance to Banner University Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.

Police have not released the names of the two officers involved in the altercation, including the officer who fired the fatal shots.

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