An ex-convict with a decades-old past of violence and drug use who has been accused of killing a man and wounding five other victims in a series of shootings on Wednesday in Mesa, Arizona, appeared in court on Thursday. Arizona recently ranked as No. 1 in the country for felons to buy, sell, and traffic firearms.
Ryan Giroux, 41, is charged with 35 criminal counts, including first- and second-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, and kidnapping. He is being held in jail without bond for probation violation, Reuters reported.
Police and several other law enforcement agencies conducted an hours-long manhunt on Wednesday for a suspect who shot six people at multiple locations in Mesa. The spree began just before 9 a.m. local time. About four hours later, authorities took Giroux into custody. He was shot with a Taser, taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, then questioned late into the evening.
Giroux, who has the words “Skin Head” tattooed on his eyebrows, is a former Arizona Department of Corrections inmate. His criminal record dates back to 1993, and includes various convictions for aggravated assault, theft, and drug possession, according to records from the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Giroux was sentenced to seven years and six months behind bars in July 2007 for an attempt to commit aggravated assault, but was released in October 2013, according to the DOC.
The violence began Wednesday at 8:40 a.m. local time when a gunman shot three people — one fatally — inside the Tri City Inn on West Main Street in Mesa, according to police. The male victim died and two women were transported to the hospital with injuries. Police believe there was an argument inside one of the motel rooms before Giroux fired shots.
The gunman then fled the motel to a nearby restaurant, Bistro 13, located just outside the campus of East Valley Institute of Technology. He demanded an adult student hand over the keys to his car. When the student refused, the gunman allegedly shot him in the shoulder.
After the car hijack, the suspect left the restaurant in a gray Honda Accord and drove about two miles to South Dobson Road. There, he forced himself into an apartment complex and shot a fifth man during a failed robbery attempt.
The suspect then traveled to the nearby Villetta Apartments, where he shot and wounded a sixth victim. He then fled to a different set of condominiums.
Police launched a massive search in the general area of his last sighting. By early afternoon, Mesa SWAT team members located Giroux on the balcony of a vacant condominium. Tactical Team members attempted to take him into custody, but he was not compliant. Police used a Taser to take Giroux into custody.
As police escorted him to a vehicle, he wore a white biological evidence suit and his hands were shackled in front of him.
Police believe Giroux acted alone. They are investigating a motive for the initial shooting at the motel. Authorities think the other incidents were motivated by robbery and Giroux’s attempt to flee the area.
Human rights activists and police said the various tattoos on Giroux’s face and torso allegedly were associated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, according to a report published by a civil rights organization in Alabama that tracks hate organizations, called the Southern Poverty Law Center. The number “88” on his left temple, for example, is code for “Heil Hitler,” since H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, wrote Mark Potok, editor-in-chief of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report.
Just last week, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ranked Arizona as the top state in the country for criminals to get firearms because of its weak gun laws. The group, which works to strengthen background checks for all commercial gun sales, analyzed 33 policies in each state related to firearms. There, residents can easily buy a weapon online or at a gun show without passing a background check. They, among other liberties, can carry a loaded hidden gun without a permit, and non-residents can get a carry permit through the mail.
Arizona received an “F” grade on the latest scorecard from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence for its loose gun laws. It also is one of the top three source states for U.S. guns that are recovered after being used in a crime in Mexico, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Four years ago, a gunman opened fire outside of a supermarket in Tucson, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Giroux is due back in court on March 26. He will have a hearing the day before for probation violation.