Family Suing After Phoenix Cop Shoots Homeowner Instead of Intruder

Harrowing 911 call records near-deadly mistake and alleged coverup attempt.

ByABC News
October 5, 2009, 2:58 PM

Oct. 6, 2009— -- When Tony Arambula managed to corner an armed intruder in his son's bedroom he expected police to come to his aid.

Instead, a Phoenix police officer confused Arambula for the intruder and shot him six times before realizing his mistake, a moment captured on the 911 call with a simple "F**k."

Even after realizing their mistake, Arambula said he was treated roughly, being dragged out of the house and transported briefly on the hood of a police car.

Now Arambula, 35, who survived but faces a lifetime of pain, is suing the city of Phoenix and the officers who responded to his house that night.

The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Court, alleges that Phoenix Police Officer Brian Lilly and his on-scene supervisor, Sgt. Sean Coutts, quickly conspired to cover up the mistake, not realizing that 911 was still recording Arambula's call for help.

CLICK HERE to listen to Tony Arambula's 911 call to Phoenix police.

Lillly has been cleared of any wrong doing by the Phoenix Use of Force Board, but the Arambulas are suing the officer, Coutts, the city of Phoenix, the Phoenix police department and a number of unidentified emergency workers for at least $5.75 million.

"It's clearly unfortunate," said Officer Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association which represents 2,600 officers. "Our officers feel terrible this occured."

But, Spencer told, PLEA also disputes some of the Arambulas' account, including that the father of two was shot in the back.

"Clearly where the blame lies is with the bad guy," Spencer said, adding that the intruder put "everyone at risk."

As for Arambula's actions that night, Spencer said, "I don't think he did anything wrong."

He added, "We agreed with the board's decision that the officer's response and action was reasonable within police policy."

The city of Phoenix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Arambula, his wife Lesley and their two sons were at home on Sept. 17, 2008, when they heard two gunshots outside shortly before an intruder crashed through their front window and pointed a 9mm gun at Arambula and 2-year-old Zachary.

The gunman, according to the lawsuit, then took off down the hall into 12-year-old Matthew's bedroom. Arambula, who had sent his wife and toddler outside the house, retreived his own handgun and cornered the intruder who was shouting that "someone was after him and going to get him."

After calling for Matthew, who had been hiding in his closet, and sending the boy outside, Arambula called 911 while continuing to point the gun at the intruder. Lesley Arambula also placed a call to 911 within seconds.