Catching Killers (2021) s02e02 Episode Script

Thrill Kills: The Phoenix Serial Shooter

1 Three o'clock in the morning, I got the call.
There had been a triple shooting that night.
Three individuals shot in the city of Phoenix.
I went to, uh, James Hodge first.
He said, "Some son of a bitch shot me.
" He had a large spray of shotgun pellet injuries to his entire back area.
The next person I go see is Miguel Rodriguez.
And Miguel said he had been walking on a sidewalk when a vehicle drove by him and fired.
Daryl Davies took a large shotgun blast on his left side from a vehicle.
Daryl was upset, and he said, "What kind of an asshole shoots somebody who's out walking around, minding their own business?" And I'm looking at him, I'm like, "Yeah.
" "What kind of an asshole does do something like that?" There was no evidence.
No witnesses.
And really no leads to go on.
What a piece of crap crime spree to try to investigate.
- I'm Clark Schwartzkopf.
- Sorry, just a minute.
One more time.
And you're having fun.
I'm Clark Schwartzkopf.
In 2006, I was a detective assigned to the Violent Crimes Bureau with the Phoenix Police Department.
I've been a street cop my entire career.
I never wanted to be in management.
To me, the the fight was out on the streets, and I liked being there.
Me against them.
But working this case would be the largest challenge I'd ever faced in my entire life.
Gonna be a bright, sunshiny day out on the streets of Phoenix.
We're expecting a high of about 108 degrees.
The sun was just coming up, and I get a phone call.
There's been two more random drive-by shotgun shootings.
I rush to the scene, which is at a liquor store.
So, we come here and we find out that Federic Cena has been shot in the back.
We found a blood trail starting from here all the way across here, to right where that entrance is, and then he walked across the street.
We followed it to that big white building, which is the VA Hospital.
In this case, and in these cases, there just was not enough information to do anything with.
But the patrol supervisor that was in charge of the shooting told me that they had a shooting last month of a young male.
He had taken a shotgun blast to the lower back area and had survived.
Our research person told me that, "Oh, by the way, Scottsdale had a murder that same night of a female who was shot, uh, with a shotgun.
" If these two can occur, and we don't know anything about them, how many other ones are out there? One of the first ones that I found was the murder of a young man, shot walking along the side of the road attempting to try to hitchhike to Los Angeles.
And then there's this massive crime spree that occurs almost six months earlier.
We had four individuals shot, two dead.
The same exact MO.
Nighttime shootings, random drive-bys.
We have a problem here.
There's a very distinct possibility that we have somebody, or a group of some people out there, randomly gunning down pedestrians on major thoroughfares in the city of Phoenix.
And I had the job of walking this up the chain of command and saying, "This is what's happening, and we need to do something immediately.
" - Here we go.
- Okay.
Yeah, no problem.
My name is Kevin Robinson, and in 2006, I was the assistant police chief over the investigations division of the Phoenix Police Department.
Clark Schwartzkopf is someone I had known for a very long time in uniform, then as a detective.
He's a a very likable person, very smart.
He's intense.
And Clark had come to the conclusion that there was a serial shooter in Phoenix.
Four people, all killed by the same individual or individuals for unknown reasons, which really, you know, makes you stand up and take notice.
I had wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a little kid.
I saw police officers, and I saw myself as being someone who could keep people safe.
So, I felt extremely responsible for not just myself and other officers, but everyone who lived in the Valley.
July 8th, I get woken about 1:00 a.
in the morning.
There have been two more random shotgun shootings.
A white female by the name of Ashley Armenta had been shot in the head with a shotgun.
So, the first thing I thought was, "She's not gonna make it.
" When I arrived at the hospital, they showed me X-rays of where she'd been hit.
Much to my surprise, she was sitting up, in a gown completely coherent.
She goes, "My husband and I got into a little argument and I stupidly left the car and started walking.
" And out of the clear blue, she she said that she got this funny feeling that somebody was watching her.
It made the the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
She feels what she described as all these bees stinging her in the back of the head.
And she goes, "Oh, my God.
I've been shot.
" And she watches as this vehicle just slowly takes off.
That was what scared me, was how good they were.
How they were able to sneak up on people.
How were they were able, calmly, to raise a gun.
It's frightening to think that someone could do this time, and time, and time again.
Code three.
Room 836.
I say, "Can you describe the car?" She goes, "Oh, yeah.
" "Without a doubt.
" It was a 2000 Toyota Camry, light blue in color.
I now have a make and model to the shooter's vehicle, which is huge.
Thirteen random shootings with no apparent pattern.
It's a cause for concern citywide.
As I drove to work, I remember getting a call from my sister-in-law, and you can tell that she was distraught.
She wanted to know, "Was it safe?" Was it safe for her and for the kids? Should they go out? Should they stay in? Should she keep the kids home? Should they not go to the movies? What I wanted to say was, "Of course, you're gonna be fine.
" But the reality is I couldn't say that.
Anybody could be the victim.
Anybody at all.
I felt I have to do better.
We are going to have to step up our efforts, and that really meant ramping up and activating a task force.
And if it saves one person's life, then it's worth it.
I figured, "Okay, it's Saturday.
" It was my son's birthday party that day.
I was really looking forward to spending some quality time with him and his friends.
And, uh, the phone call came.
It's my supervisor, and he says, "We are gonna put a task force together, and you'll be in charge of it.
" I remember my son standing there, and I told him, I said, "I'm gonna do everything I can to get back for your birthday party.
" And he kind of looked at me and kind of just shook his head, slumped his shoulders and walked away.
He knew that there was no way in hell his old man was coming back that day.
I felt terrible.
But I'm gonna take a stand, and I'm gonna do what I can to to stop this this killing.
I get up in front of the investigators and I begin to explain to them why they're there.
We have a series of shootings that are random in nature.
We have a definitive description of our vehicle, 2000 Camry, light blue in color.
You'll be out there every night between the hours of 10:00 p.
and 3:00 a.
That is when they hit the most.
We're gonna cast a wide net and hope that we catch something in it.
After the briefing, I wanted to get on the street.
I wanted to see what our shooter saw.
And what I saw was, frankly, frightening.
Pedestrians everywhere.
Dark spots where you can easily lurk and hide.
Anyone that was by themselves on a major thoroughfare was a target.
The best way to get away with this type of shooting is to have someone else with you who can watch and look for witnesses and/or people around.
So, there are at least two perpetrators in these drive-by shootings.
There's no sexual motivation here.
Robbery and money is not a motive.
So, it really falls down to thrill killing.
Flat out pure evil.
Over a week later, I received a call from one of our detectives.
And he had just received a phone call with a person by the name of Ron Horton.
He said he's named a gentleman by the name of Sammy Dieteman as one of your possible shooters.
And for the first time I actually kind of got excited that we really had a solid lead.
We're in front of the former Mexican restaurant known as The Taste of Mexico.
And as I watched Ron pull in the parking lot from over here I introduced myself and I said, "Are you Ron Horton?" He says, "I am Ron Horton.
" I said, "Okay, let's go inside, and we'll, uh we'll share a meal, and you can tell me why it is you believe Samuel Dieteman is one of the shooters.
" Ron said that Sam told him, "I think I shot and killed a woman.
" Sam said, "We call it recreational violence.
" "We do this recreationally.
" For fun, basically.
For the thrill of it.
I said, "Listen, we need to find this guy, because I don't know where he's living.
" And I said, "Do you have his phone number?" He said, "No, but I can get one.
" And I said, "I would appreciate it as quickly as possible.
" I was feeling desperate and and extremely frustrated.
It's another Saturday afternoon, and we're in the office.
I'd been Clark's partner for almost six years at that point.
Clark and I were definitely very outspoken.
Very detail-oriented.
Uh, leave-no-stone-unturned kind of, uh, personalities, and therefore, uh, we were a good match for each other.
Clark was very high-strung.
He wore his feelings on his shoulders at all times.
He'd come over and kick my garbage can and say, "This fucking thing!" And this and that.
Myself and others were concerned about his, uh his health, and he recognized it as well.
It was a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week nightmare that I could never escape.
I really honestly felt a personal responsibility to find these people and and to stop this madness.
Two nights later, I received a phone call.
A young white female had been shot.
When I walked up, all her clothing was right in this area right here.
She had her slippers and the stuff she was wearing.
One of the Mesa Police lieutenants came over to me and told me that the white female had died.
Her name was Robin Blasnek.
Twenty-two years old, completely, you know, innocent.
Gunned down for absolutely no reason.
It's a sick, sick tragedy.
I was sick to my stomach.
This is the first homicide that's occurred under my watch.
Now the death toll is five in total.
I remember just feeling horribly depressed.
Did I miss something? Did Is this my fault? And I vowed to myself at that point, this was it.
There was there was gonna be no more killing.
Breaking news out of Phoenix.
No way to predict where the Phoenix shooter will strike next.
He is definitely stalking this desert town so far The next morning, I got a phone call from Ron Horton.
He had watched TV and heard about the killing of Robin Blasnek, and he felt terrible.
He was blaming himself for what happened.
He said he was able to get a hold of Sam, and they were gonna get together and have a couple beers.
Wow, this is it.
It was a breakthrough to be able to find Sam Dieteman.
So, I arranged an entire surveillance unit to watch everything that Sam Dieteman did when he arrived.
My name is Don Sherrard.
What about the other side? At that time, I was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Bureau for the Phoenix Police Department, doing drug investigations, and we were all called in to help with the serial shooter investigation because of our surveillance experience.
This is what I'd been doing for many years.
The old adage that law enforcement is hours and hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of terrifying horror, you know.
We were on our way to the Stardust Lounge, and we were looking for a man named Sam Dieteman.
For our surveillance that night, I had eight detectives assigned to me.
I had tall, I had short, I had skinny, I had beards, I had baldheads.
They would fit in anywhere.
One of my detectives announced over the radio that he saw a light blue Camry pull up to the front of the bar.
I'm parked right here, and I'm like, "Holy hell.
" This is the exact model, make of vehicle and color that Ashley Armenta had seen when she got shot.
One of my detectives reported that a guy that he recognized as Sam Dieteman got out and walked into the Stardust Lounge.
The light blue car pulled away from the curb.
And at that point, I broke my team in two and left some of them there to watch Dieteman, and we followed this suspect car over to a large shopping mall called Metro Center.
And he parked his car, and a couple of detectives followed the driver in.
A specialty unit that attaches tracking devices to vehicles got there.
Crawled under the car.
Our target went to two stores.
And then came out of the mall.
I'm sitting on the edge of my seat.
And the guy attached the tracking device and was able to get out from underneath the car.
The suspect got into the car and he made his way back to the Stardust Lounge.
They radioed the license plate of that vehicle.
The registered owner was Dale S.
So, I decided to head back to main police headquarters where I started to go through information on Dale Hausner.
No real violent history.
Nothing to flag him as a as a potential violent perpetrator.
We followed this suspect car out to the casino, where a couple of our detectives see him interact with Dieteman.
Then they open the trunk.
One of my detectives was close enough to see that they had a duffel bag.
As I'm hearing this, I I got really nervous.
And I'm asking, "What size? What kind of duffel bag is it?" I said, "Big enough to carry a gun?" And they're like, "Well, it's dark, it's hard to see, but we think it probably could contain a weapon.
" It was like a ton of bricks hit me, and I started driving like a madman down to the Southeast Valley.
They started driving on the main thoroughfares just willy-nilly.
Sometimes, they'll get off the main arteries and drive into a neighborhood and just go around the block.
Somebody on a bicycle, they drive slowly by them.
It was like they were looking for prey.
But we don't have enough evidence to pull them over and say, "Hey, what are you guys doing?" So, we tried to keep one of our cars somewhere close enough that they didn't take the opportunity to try and and shoot someone.
I was driving so fast to try to get down there.
Screaming on the communication, "Don't leave them alone.
" "I want a unit on the back of them at all times without blowing the surveillance.
" So that they don't feel that they could shoot without somebody at least seeing them.
The radio and the phones were alive.
"Pull out ahead of him now.
" "You'll be ahead of him, I'll turn off, and then you'll have a car in sight that maybe he won't take a chance at doing anything.
" They're going slow by somebody.
They're slowing down.
That's when your blood pressure jumps, that's when the adrenaline spike hits.
Are we going to witness a murder? Are we gonna be a day late and a dollar short when when this goes down? In my mind, I kept envisioning another Robin Blasnek simply walking down the street.
And And I kept thinking to myself, "How do I explain this if these guys actually get a shot off and and kill somebody?" After about three hours of this terrifying hell, they finally drove into an apartment complex on McKellips Road.
We didn't see them again for the rest of the night.
I I was almost, um, you know, almost in tears, and all I could do was just sit back, and take a deep breath, and and and blow it out and go, "Oh, thank God.
" You know, we're going to make a case on these individuals, and we're gonna do it the right way before they do end up shooting somebody else.
The next afternoon, we're watching the apartment, and suddenly Dieteman appears between the buildings, and he's got a trash bag.
And he heads over to the community dumpster and throws the trash bag in and then returns back into the apartment.
One of my detectives, God bless his soul, he climbed into that nasty, old dumpster and withdrew that trash bag.
And we'd sent him to the main police headquarters in Central Phoenix.
We open it, and I start to go through it, and the first thing I find is a scrap of paper that's been torn in two.
And on it is Robin Blasnek's name, and her age, and the day of her murder.
Next thing we found was an empty Dr.
Pepper can.
As I was moving it, actually, to photograph it, it was apparent that there was some object inside of it.
And as Clark and I examined it further, we were able to remove a shotgun cup.
And then I unfold this piece of paper that I recognized to be a map of Phoenix.
And there are blue dots and red dots.
And I go, "Oh, my God.
" "There's marks on here showing locations where some of these shootings have occurred.
" I'd say we were elated.
However, as any long-term homicide investigator will tell you, there are a lot of creeps out there that follow homicide investigations.
They write down details, they make maps, they make drawings or photos.
What we had at this point would be insignificant in court.
I understood the difference between arrest and conviction, and I knew that the convictions were a long ways away.
I get a phone call from my supervisor.
"We are not going to make any arrests tonight.
" "Go home, get some sleep.
" "We will meet in the morning and take it from there.
" I was relieved.
I was looking forward to getting a little shut-eye.
I'd only been asleep for five minutes.
It's my supervisor and he said it was a chain of command decision to arrest Dieteman and Hausner.
I'm like, "What?" "Why would you risk this? Why would you do this?" What was paramount in everyone's mind was public safety.
We recognized we have enough to make an arrest.
The question as to whether or not we'll have enough to completely convict, obviously, is further down the road.
But we were gonna make sure that no one else was gonna be injured by these individuals.
Hey! Got him! I knew that not everybody is gonna be happy with that decision.
I was furious.
I was livid.
We don't have enough evidence to try to get a prosecution.
I really honestly felt betrayed, and I was not happy.
What on earth do I do now? I drive back to the station.
I'm watching both Sam and Dale on two different monitors.
I realized that I was gonna have to get one of them or both of them to incriminate themselves.
Sam, there was no panic in him.
He just laid his head down on the table and fell right asleep.
Dale, he's looking around the room.
He's calm, but he's fidgety.
And I think to myself, "You know, he'll be the one I think that will break.
" So, I picked Dale, uh, as the first one to interview.
- Morning.
- Morning.
How are you? - Good, how are you? - Pretty good.
Dale, I'm Detective Schwartzkopf.
I'm with the Phoenix Police Department.
Um I asked you to be brought down today.
I have some questions I have to ask you about some stuff, okay? - No problem.
- Um, before we do that My strategy in an interview is to get them to talk and to feel comfortable with me as a as an investigator.
So, I start to ask personal questions.
- Do you own a vehicle? - Yes, I do.
It's a 1998 Toyota Camry.
And, um, it's blue.
He was very comfortable telling me everything that he knew about his personal life and his personal property, including his guns.
Are you a hunter? Yes.
I'm not technically a hunter, I like to go out shooting in the desert.
So, you're You consider yourself a weapons person? - I love them.
Yes, I do.
- Okay.
Have you been following at all what's going on in the city of Phoenix? A little.
I keep track of the serial killer.
He's going out shooting people.
It hit me, you know, like a brick in the face.
What do you know about that particular case? Um, 35 people shot, uh He goes into this big, long narrative about everything he knew and how he was following it.
And then I fibbed and I said, "Your roommate has made some incriminating statements about his behavior.
" Uh, it's very important that you continue to be honest with me about Sammy.
And yeah, I know you guys are friends.
No, we're buds, but, man, if he killed 85 people, man - He didn't kill 85.
- I'm just saying.
If he killed however many people he killed or shot, that's on him, that's not on me, so I'm I'm not protecting anybody, so I'll be very honest with you about this.
Um, I'm I I don't think you've been completely honest with me about Mr.
Dieteman, and I don't think you've been honest about what you've been doing.
- Okay.
- Okay.
When they find whoever did the shooting, it's not gonna be me.
I can guarantee that without a doubt.
I'll look you in the eye, I'll polygraph.
I have never shot anybody in my life.
I was in the monitoring room, and it was very obvious that this individual sitting across from Clark was, uh, pure evil.
He had zero remorse.
He was very flippant, uh, very arrogant in his remarks to Clark, and it was very clear that there was a chess game going on, and he was gonna have Clark prove to him that we had any information on him whatsoever before he was gonna divulge anything.
I dropped a bomb on him.
I'm just very curious.
Let me show you this.
Have you ever seen this before? I pulled out the map.
Does that look familiar at all? - Yeah? - No.
I could see panic starting to set in.
He was closing up.
And he wasn't gonna give me any more information.
So, it was time to push on towards Sam.
- Hey.
- How you doing? Half asleep.
I admit I'd been worn down by Dale's interview and the lack of sleep, and I was flat-out tired, and so I just kind of asked Sam Do you have any idea why you're here? Uh, yeah, I believe it'd be the serial shooter case.
I was not ready for that.
Why would you think that? Um 'Cause I think I know who's been doing it.
I have been staying with the guy.
So, I just let him talk.
I lean back, the window is going down, just kinda watching him, watching that, and just kind of wondering, "What the hell?" So, there's just kind of a loud pop, and I look back, and there's a guy screaming on the side of the road.
And what does Dale do after he fires? Uh, he kind of chuckles a little bit, and and has a gun down beside his leg there.
Just looked at me for a second and kept driving.
Then, he started to admit his responsibility in some of the shootings.
What'd you shoot? There was like a hooker or something walking there.
And you think it was a female you shot? Yeah.
I'm obviously ecstatic.
I know that we've got them.
That was your true television-slash-movie high-five moment.
All of us were high-fiving, and we were all yelling and screaming, whooping it up, uh, like a a a bunch of assholes that were overtired and and hungry.
It was a fantastic feeling.
The best thing that I can do for my community is to take evildoers off the street, and this case is the perfect example of that.
To arrest and convict these type of people is really the the the epitome of of of what we do, and I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to do that job.

Previous EpisodeNext Episode