Det. James Peters had been out and about on the prowl for a home invasion suspect when he copied radio traffic of the approaching pursuit. As Brown exited the 101 Freeway at Chaparral, the Scottsdale SWAT officer put himself on an intersecting path with the suspect's anticipated direction of travel. Scottsdale officers were instructed to confine their involvement to providing support by shutting down intersections and deploying spike strips.
And to that end, they'd been successful: The van's tires were beginning to come apart, large flaps of threads pinwheeled out from the chassis, and a big rooster tail of sparks shot out from beneath the lift gate as it scraped along the asphalt.
A Scottsdale sergeant followed the pursuit to give updates to fellow officers and let them know which intersections to cut off. The suspect drove all the way down Chaparral and turned northbound on Scottsdale Road.
Peters paralleled the pursuit on a side street, figuring that if it turned into a barricade situation or if Brown got out of the car and ran, he would be able to help set up a perimeter.
As the suspect drove through the intersection of Shea Boulevard and North Scottsdale Road, he turned into a shopping center. Despite the late hour, the parking lot was packed with pedestrians and vehicles due to the presence of a very large bar/dance club at its center. Brown ran the vehicle onto a curb in front of an adjacent Safeway store.
Peters assumed a perimeter position as a canine officer put himself in foot pursuit of the suspect who ran in a northwest direction through the lot. In a matter of seconds, Brown put enough distance between himself and the canine cop as so to leave some ambiguity about his exact location (later, FLIR video footage from the aero unit would show the desperate Brown checking the doors of various businesses on the property).
Noticing the ruckus outside of the store, the Safeway night shift manager locked the doors of the southernmost entrance to the store. But the north doors had no locking mechanism on them, obligating the manager to stand there and physically hold the doors together.
Brown emerged from the alley behind the store. Expecting the north doors to open automatically, he ran headlong into them, knocking the doors off their hinges, and sending the brave manager flying.
Just inside the door, a female employee had been stocking merchandise in a cooler when Brown burst in. Brown lunged for the woman, who screamed and ran away. However, an elderly male employee wasn't so lucky. Having his back to the door while filling soup containers, he was unaware of Brown's approach. Brown grabbed the man and forced him at gunpoint to the back stocking area.
Several Peoria PD officers had followed Brown into the store, stopping near the cash registers where they lost sight of him. Seeing that the situation was spiraling into a barricade, the Scottsdale PD watch commander told his officers to secure a tight perimeter and requested SWAT units to respond to the location.
Peters pulled away from his perimeter position and parked his car at the command post. Then grabbing his rifle and gear, he reported to the incident commander who directed him to enter the store to deal with the hostage situation. With his SWAT training and background in negotiations, Peters was the ideal candidate for the job.
Save for some incongruously upbeat music being piped in over its speakers, a stillness had descended over the store. Near the cash registers, several Peoria PD officers-still pumped with post-pursuit adrenaline-excitedly advised Peters that the suspect had moved to the back of the store, but that his exact whereabouts were unknown.
Having worked patrol in the area, Peters knew of a catwalk above the cash registers where one-way glass allowed loss prevention officers to look down the aisles. Peters advised his sergeant that he was going to access the catwalk and scan the aisles for Brown.