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6:41 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Verde man fires into neighborhood before turning gun on himself, YCSO says

Neighboring homes evacuated

Donald Leon Howard

Donald Leon Howard

VERDE VILLAGE — A Verde Village man is dead after he first fired a gun into his neighborhood while police were attempting to execute a search warrant and then turned the gun on himself.

According to a news release from Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Media Relations Coordinator Dwight D’Evelyn, Wednesday at about 6 p.m., detectives from the Partner’s Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) Task Force along with Yavapai County deputies, prepared to serve search and arrest warrants at a home in the 700 block of Jewel Drive.

The suspect was 34-year-old Donald Leon Howard. His warrant was related to drugs, failure to appear and evidence tampering charges, D’Evelyn said.

The news release states PANT detectives and YCSO deputies set up around the house and utilized a loudspeaker directing Howard and anyone else inside to exit.

“When this was done, four adults willingly came outside and were escorted to safety. A fifth person, later identified as Howard, slammed the door shut and started firing rounds towards deputies and PANT detectives positioned across from the house. These rounds struck police vehicles and at least two homes behind the deputies. The suspect’s shots pinned down deputies as they maintained cover and readiness to engage the shooter should he exit the home firing.”

At this point, said D’Evelyn, assisting deputies began evacuating neighboring homes and a Code Red Emergency Notification was issued to the general neighborhood with instructions to shelter.

“At one point, Howard called the YCSO dispatch center indicating he might surrender, but instead began firing again from inside the home at deputies and into the neighborhood,” D’Evelyn stated. “Eventually, Howard did speak with a YCSO negotiator for a period of time, but refused to surrender.”

The Sheriff’s Office SWAT was activated and as they prepared to deploy, an armored vehicle from Cottonwood Police was used to evacuate deputies in the line of fire. A Ranger helicopter crew from DPS provided aerial surveillance throughout the incident.

In an attempt to encourage Howard’s surrender, the SWAT team fired tear gas-type canisters into the home. This action brought more gunshots from Howard and no effort to surrender. At one point, SWAT members heard a shot, then contact from the suspect ceased. A camera-based robot was deployed and found Howard inside a bedroom with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. When deputies eventually accessed the bedroom, Howard was confirmed dead. 

“During this incident, no rounds were fired by patrol deputies or SWAT personnel and there were no injuries to any law enforcement personnel or residents. Although prepared to engage the suspect with deadly force if required, deputies were mindful of the safety of surrounding neighbors if returning fire became necessary,” said D’Evelyn.

The incident remains under investigation by detectives.