- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Authorities are investigating a fatal shooting of a suspect who police say had stolen a car then led them on a chase that ended in his death.

Manuel Longoria, 40, died Jan. 14 after being shot twice by a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy in Eloy.

The investigation into the shooting is being handled by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office with help from the Eloy Police Department, sheriff’s spokesman Tim Gaffney said Thursday.

While Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Eloy police have said the shooting was justified, the case will eventually be handed over to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office for a final determination.

Longoria stole a car and then led police on a 45-minute chase before he was stopped in an Eloy neighborhood and surrounded by deputies and police with guns drawn, authorities said.

“The guy was yelling out the window that he had a gun and was not going to be taken alive,” Gaffney said. “When he got out of the vehicle, he refused to comply” with officers’ commands to surrender.

Video taken by a witness and provided to several media outlets, including KPHO-TV, shows Longoria standing outside the vehicle surrounded by police pointing guns at him and yelling for him to surrender. Officers then can be seen and heard firing non-lethal bean bag rounds at the man, who at one point appears to reach for something in the vehicle.

Within seconds, Longoria is seen spinning around with his back to the officers and throwing his hands in the air above his head. He is almost simultaneously fatally shot twice by a deputy.

No weapon was found at the scene. Gaffney said authorities are awaiting toxicology results on the man to determine if he had drugs in his system.

Babeu has said it appeared it was “a case of suicide by cop.”

Longoria’s girlfriend, however, disputed the allegations.

“He was scared,” Lynnette Casey told KPHO. “They say suicide by cop. How is it he wanted to die if his hands were up? Nobody with their hands up wants to die.”

Gaffney said the video is misleading and that the deputy who fired the fatal shots was justified, given Longoria’s statements that he was armed and wouldn’t be taken alive and his failure to immediately surrender.

“It was instantaneous how it happened,” Gaffney said, noting the deputy who fired thought Longoria might have reached for a gun in the car. “He was fearful for his safety and fearful for others, so he fired two rounds.”

An internal investigation also will be conducted into the car chase after it was revealed that a sheriff’s lieutenant had radioed deputies to back off when the situation grew dangerous. Gaffney said that review will occur separately from the investigation into the shooting and has no bearing on whether it was justifiable.

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