The lights flashed through downtown in the morning darkness. A line of motorcycles led the way to the medical examiner’s office, trailed by a single white van.
Inside lay the body of Tyler Edenhofer, who was killed late Wednesday along Interstate 10 in the West Valley. He was one of a group of Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers trying to arrest a man who fought back. A minutes-long fight ended when the man — who was suspected of throwing things at passing cars — took a trooper’s gun and fired at least two bullets.
One hit a trooper in the shoulder. He is expected to survive.
The other hit Edenhofer. He did not.
“It’s like a bad nightmare that you’ll never awake from,” his sister wrote in a Facebook post. “I don’t understand why this had to happen. I’m so mad and angry and upset and shocked and in disbelief. If you didn’t know Tyler, he was an amazing person, selfless, heroic, brave. Navy vet, DPS trooper, a hero.”
Edenhofer was engaged to be married, DPS director Col. Frank Milstead said during a press conference Wednesday.
A life dedicated to service
Edenhofer was still a rookie trooper, a lanky 24-year-old with a buzz cut and his initials tattooed across his chest. In a photo posted to Facebook by his mother, Debbie Edenhofer, he smiled softly as he posed in his tan trooper’s uniform. His hand rested on his gun.
It had been just three months since he left the academy, graduating in May with DPS training class No. 508.
Before that, he served in the U.S. Navy. He worked on the USS Frank Cable, which is based in Guam.
Facebook posts and a newsletter from the USS Frank Cable indicate that he was working on the ship in 2014 and 2015 as a hull maintenance technician.
To become a hull technician — a role that specializes in metal work — Edenhofer had to complete boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, learning metal work for a variety of situations both at sea and ashore. Hull technicians maintain plumbing and sanitation systems, repair small boats, and operate and maintain ballast control systems, according to the U.S. Navy website.
In March 2015, Edenhofer was named the ship’s “Sailor of the Week.” Later that year, he was promoted. Further details of his Navy service are not yet public.
He graduated from Jeffersontown High School in Kentucky in 2012 and was on the bowling team, according to a LinkedIn page under his name, which says he joined the U.S. Navy that year.
“I’m a skilled and organized professional who’s (sic) project planning skills help capture the mission for any employer out there,” he wrote on the page. “I am patient and crafty which makes me the best for any company because these qualities mean quality work.”
Remembering a ‘free spirit’
“He was a great man, my pride and joy!” his mother, Debbie Edenhofer, told The Arizona Republic. “My whole life was him.”
Family friend Joe Seabert said Edenhofer lived in Mesa before moving to Quartzsite, a small town in western Arizona.
“Just a (sic) outgoing free spirit, with pride, determination, and respect,” Seabert said in Facebook messages to The Arizona Republic. “He loved the outdoors. Hes (sic) someone you couldn’t put a limit to.”
Seabert, 40, said he watched Edenhofer grow from a 6-month-old into “a little linebacker.” Then they lost touch, reconnecting only after Edenhofer returned from Guam. They rode motorcycles together.
A motorcycle trip, Seabert said, was his last and favorite memory of Edenhofer. They rode to the top of South Mountain. “Was having so much fun and having such a good time with him,” Seabert wrote.
As they stood atop the mountain, the city stretching below them, Edenhofer’s mother asked Seabert to take a photo. To preserve the moment. To save the feeling.
He forgot to take the picture.
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