Cottonwood AZ (May 8, 2020) – On May 6, 2020 at approximately 7:22 AM, Cottonwood Officers responded to the 1400 block of E. Birch Street, Cottonwood AZ for the report of a male subject who had been observed demonstrating erratic behavior and threatening others with physical violence. Citizens in the area advised officers that this subject’s erratic behaviors have been escalating over the last few weeks. Officers identified this subject as Cottonwood resident, 57-year-old Jeffrey John Thomas. Due to Jeffery Thomas’ erratic and unusual behavior Mobile Behavioral Crisis Team was called to assist with a mental health evaluation.
Based on the Crisis Team’s on-scene evaluation of Jeffery Thomas, they ultimately filed a petition which authorized the detention of Jeffery for further evaluation. Cottonwood Police Officers attempted to serve this order on Jeffery Thomas. After multiple attempts to get Jeffery to exit his residence and his refusal, it was decided at that time to allow Jeffery to deescalate and attempt contact with him later that day.
Later that evening around 7:45 PM officers were called to the area of E. Birch and S. 15th Street for a report of a suspicious male subject who was reportedly “charging” vehicles passing by him. Responding officers were further informed the male suspect was holding what appeared to be a flagpole. Officer Matt Strickland was one of the first officers on scene. The male subject was discovered to be Jeffery Thomas. Jeffery was attempting to conceal himself behind a bush when they arrived. Initially Officer Strickland believed Jeffery Thomas was carrying a flagpole. Jeffery immediately ran towards his residence where officers followed. After a short foot pursuit Jeffery began making erratic statements saying they were there to “kill” him. Jeffery Thomas was disguising a shotgun with what appeared to be some type of makeshift flag. This wasn’t discovered until Jeffery shot at Officer Strickland striking him in his left arm. Officers were able to take cover and began exchanging gunfire.
Verde Valley SWAT responded to the scene and within an hour Jeffery Thomas surrendered without further incident. Based on Jeffery Thomas’s actions leading up to the shooting and statements made to investigators, it is believed he was attempting, and intended to, ambush the arriving officers.
Jeffery Thomas was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde. He was charged with Attempted Murder in 2nd Degree, Aggravated Assault on Law Enforcement, Aggravated Assault, Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm and Endangerment. He is currently being held on a $500,000 bond.
Officer Matt Strickland sustained non-life threatening but serious injuries to his arm and is currently doing well and should be released from the hospital soon. Officer Strickland is a six-year veteran of the Cottonwood Police Department. Due to these officer’s heroic actions they likely saved the lives of citizens.