PHOENIX — Bounty hunters wearing black ski masks and looking for a bail jumper kicked in the front door of a house, held children at gunpoint and shot a young couple to death in a case of mistaken identity, police said.
Three of the bounty hunters were in custody Monday, including one who has been charged with second-degree murder and two who are hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Police were looking for two others.
Investigators said they don't believe the bail jumper was in the house and may never have lived there.
"It's still a mystery why they went to that house," said police Sgt. Mike Torres.
The shootings have focused renewed attention on Arizona laws that allow bounty hunters to break down doors and use guns to bring bail jumpers back to jail. They don't need a court order or warrant. They don't even need a license to do what they do, police said.
In Sunday's shooting, the bounty hunters were looking for an out-of-state bail jumper who owed a California bond company $25,000. Police said one bounty hunter held a woman and her three children at gunpoint while others kicked down the door to the couple's bedroom.
Killed were Chris Foote, 23, and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Spring Wright. Police said Foote apparently managed to shoot two of the bounty hunters with a handgun before he died.
Luisa Sharrah, who lived in the house, said she woke up to find two men straddling her and tying her hands with white cords.
"I was in bed with my two girls . . . then these two guys beat me in the head with a [flashlight]," she told the Arizona Republic. "I kept screaming at them, 'What the hell do you want?' "
The gunmen kicked down a door in the home and were met by a volley of bullets from Foote's gun, she said, but the bounty hunters shot back.
David Brackney, 45, and Michael Sanders, 40, were hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds to their arms. Both had worn body armor. Torres said they would likely be charged after release from the hospital.
Police arrested Brackney's son, Matthew Brackney, 20, at a home about a mile from the shooting site. Police did not name the bail company involved in the shooting.