Officer Austin Peru and His Loved Ones Reflect on Shooting Incident One Year Later
By John Maxwell
The events of February 11, 2022, left four officers shot and three other officers wounded by shrapnel. I was able to meet with Officer Austin Peru (10851 833J) and those closest to him — his fiancée, Brooke; his mother, Melinda; and his father, Rudy — to talk about the day that changed all of their lives. Everyone is so thankful that he is still here with us!
Austin recalls that he was spending time with his family before work. He talked to Brooke on the telephone before starting his shift. The shift started like any other day, clearing radio calls for service off the stack. He received an emergency radio call of a 211H (Home Invasion)/901G (Person Shot) at 5405 W. Warner St. Details of the call stated that three male suspects, all wearing masks, entered the home and shot someone inside. Information was that all the suspects had left the scene. Austin was close by the call and arrived on scene near S. 54th Ave. and W. Elwood St. at around 2 a.m. He parked across the street from the call address and could see a Black male standing by the front entry door. Austin did not gain any further information about the call as he approached the scene. The male told him, “She is bleeding out.” Austin knew that he was not going in the home alone and took it slow. He walked up and stood by a pillar near the front of the house. He started to ask the male questions, but he did not want to answer. The male’s left hand disappeared behind his body, and Austin remembers the incident in slow motion even though it happened really fast. The male suspect displayed a handgun and just started opening fire upon Austin. Austin said he knew he was shot and moved away for cover; he immediately couldn’t move his right arm. He tripped in the street and rolled. He then tried to clear on his radio and hit his emergency red button, but a bullet struck his radio. He did not know at the time that his transmissions were not being broadcasted.
Don’t give up, and refuse to lose. You need to bounce back from stuff like this.
Austin then heard the gunshots stop from the suspect, and then he heard other gunshots from another officer. He tried his radio again, but it wasn’t working. He didn’t know what was put out on the radio from other officers. He was running down the street eastbound on Warner toward the red and blue lights arriving. He remembers telling the responding units he was shot and that Officer Jones was still at the house. They told him to get into the back seat of their police Tahoe. Blood was coming out of his chest around his vest. The adrenaline stopped, and he recalls starting to pass out in the back seat of the police car. He woke up and had a hard time breathing. He continued to go in and out of consciousness as they drove him to the ambulance near S. 51st Ave. and W. Elwood St. Austin was then transferred to the fire department ambulance, where they started to access his injuries, cutting his clothes and removing his duty gear. They cut off everything in the back of the ambulance. They were advising him of where he was hit by gunfire. He remembers hearing, “arm, shoulder and chest.” He thought to himself, “Uh oh, this isn’t good.” He was having a hard time breathing, and they were placing chest seals on his body. They were attempting to hear lung sounds on his chest; the left side had sounds, but when they moved to the right side, they couldn’t hear anything. His right lung had collapsed due to his injuries.
Austin kept going in and out of consciousness, and it felt really easy for him to just close his eyes and drift off where there was no pain, but he was doing everything in his power to stay awake. When they arrived at the hospital, he later learned that his left lung had also collapsed. He remembers that when he was brought into the emergency department (ED) of the hospital, he had a harsh dose of reality because he was the one being worked on, rather than him arriving to check on a patient. While lying on the bed, he saw a big bright light above him and a bunch of heads and faces surrounding the light. He still couldn’t breathe as the doctor started to insert a chest tube. Austin then said, “I don’t remember anything else, I passed out.”
Austin later woke up in a hospital room with his family surrounding him. It was in this moment that he was so thankful to be alive. He was shot five times in total. He was shot in his right forearm through and through; right upper arm, which shattered the humerus bone; right upper chest front, which exited his back, fracturing his shoulder blade; right lateral area through and through; and left hand through and through. The most severe injury was to his humerus bone, which needed immediate surgery. The doctors had to cauterize the injuries to stop the bleeding.
Austin says that his right arm bone is still healing and that his arm is able to function. There is still nerve damage, which is consistent with his injuries, that affects his hand function. Doctors placed a metal plate and 15 screws to reconstruct the bone in his right arm. The other injuries have healed, but there is still some sensitivity around the injury sites. The first month or so was difficult because he could not get sleep due to pain. He has returned to work on light-duty status, with a lot of doctor’s appointments. He is still recovering physically and mentally from the trauma of that day. I asked Austin how he feels now, and he said, “I am so thankful for my family for being there and my fiancée, Brooke.” He is looking forward to getting back into hunting, fishing and playing golf again. He wanted to thank his friends who have always been around when he needed them. He wants to tell his story and let the newer officers know: “Don’t give up, and refuse to lose. You need to bounce back from stuff like this.” Austin has completed detective school, general instructor school and is looking toward the future of possibly being an instructor at the Academy or even the Employee Assistance Unit (EAU) to help his fellow officers. “Considering the circumstances, I feel very lucky,” he says.
Austin and Brooke just purchased a new home and are now engaged to be married in May 2023.
I asked Brooke about that day, and she said that she was at home sleeping. Around 5 a.m., she heard a knock at the door. It was a Phoenix police officer. She thought that was weird because they don’t live in Phoenix. He asked for Brooke and wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on. She initially thought that her house was being robbed, but when she saw the officer, her heart just dropped to the floor. He told her that Austin had been shot and that he was going to take her to the hospital; he didn’t know what condition Austin was in. She threw on clothes and got into his police car. The ride took forever because they lived in the Northwest Valley. She asked how long it would take. He told her about 18 minutes.
They arrived at the hospital, and there were Phoenix police officers all over the place. She was escorted into the waiting area. The doctors said that Austin was in surgery to stop the bleeding. She was shocked, and it felt like she was in a weird dream with a lot of waiting. Austin made it out of surgery and was taken to the ICU. The hospital was only allowing two people to see him at a time. His parents went up first. She was finally able to see Austin, and he was unconscious and intubated. She remembers seeing that he was wounded and bruised.
All she could do was hold his hand. “I was scared to touch him,” she says. She stayed with him every night in the hospital. She was scared that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow old together. The hospital eventually allowed more visitors at one time. Austin’s breathing tube was later removed as he began to wake up. She was always praying for Austin, and she knew that he was going to be OK. She knew in her heart that they would still get more time together for the future. She was thankful that she was allowed to stay by his side with all the COVID protocols in place at the hospital.
Brooke is so excited to be getting married to the man she loves after being together since they were 19 years old. They met at Glendale Community College, and she looks forward to their lives together.
“A Parent’s Worst Nightmare”
Austin’s mother, Melinda, remembers her phone ringing at around 3:16 a.m., and they told her something happened to Austin at work. She was also told that they were sending a car. She knew that was a bad sign. She asked, “Is Austin still with us?”, but they did not have any information. She got ready and woke up her boyfriend. They waited outside for the police car to arrive. She called Austin’s father, Rudy, and his brothers, AJ and Andrew, to tell them the news (AJ was the only sibling who answered). She tried calling Brooke multiple times and left a voicemail (to this day, Brooke has not listened to that message). The police car arrived, and the ride felt like it took forever. All she could think about was whether her son was
dead or alive.
They arrived at the hospital, and a fire captain told her about Austin’s condition and that he was being prepped for surgery. She waited for Rudy to arrive, and they went into the ED to see Austin. He was white as a ghost and cold to the touch. She said that it was something that she never wanted to be a part of. They were escorted to a waiting room. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. Austin later woke up in the ICU, and she remembers being there in the hospital with him. Austin told them the story of what he remembers happening, and she could tell at that moment, “Our Austin is coming back.” She is very grateful to have her son still. She said it is so hard to watch him struggling still today, and it breaks her heart as a parent. “We have to focus on that he is here and moving forward,” she says. She wanted to say thank-you to Officer Jason Hobel for helping them through this incident, and that he is amazing. “I don’t want anyone to go through this.”
“Why Couldn’t It Be Me?”
Austin’s father, Rudy Peru, is also on the Phoenix Police Department. Rudy told me about that morning. His cellphone dinged and one of his friends texted him that we just had a 999 (Officer Down) in 83, and he tried calling Austin. He also turned on his police radio to listen. Austin didn’t answer and it went to voicemail. He called again and someone answered, and he heard breathing on the other end of the line, and then nothing for 48 seconds. He called another officer to see if he had heard anything about Austin, and he said no. The other officer who was on duty said that the scene was still active. Rudy started to text Austin, worried that he was involved. Rudy woke up his wife and thought that they had heard Austin’s voice clear on the radio. They then heard that more officers had been shot. A short time later, Rudy’s lieutenant called him and said, “Rudy, did you hear?” Rudy said that he started yelling and screaming, “Is my kid alive?!”, because the lieutenant wouldn’t give him an update. Eventually, the lieutenant said that Austin was OK for now. Rudy said that he couldn’t contain himself and was very upset. It wasn’t very long before a police car arrived to give Rudy and his wife a ride to the hospital. “I just remember being pissed off, crying and having so many emotions coming over me,” he says. He thought that this could be the last time he would see his kid again. “Melinda got a hold of me and gave an update that Austin was in critical condition, but stable. That was huge relief to hear,” he recalls. They arrived at the hospital and saw all the police vehicles parked outside, and they went into the ED to see Austin. He said, “This was the worst day of my life.” So many things were going through his mind: “Why couldn’t it be me? He has his whole life ahead of him. I just wanted to protect my kid, and couldn’t do it. I was so emotional.” He didn’t know if he would ever be able to talk to him again after giving him a kiss on the forehead. Rudy’s whole work bureau arrived at the hospital, and to have the support of his bureau made him feel good. The whole time Austin was in the hospital, the Airport Bureau officers stood guard. Austin got out of surgery, and when he was in the ICU, Rudy was able to see him again. “I just wanted him to wake up and to talk to him.” His heart dropped when he saw all the tubes, IVs and wounds all over his body, and he felt helpless. “I remembered just a week before I was able to work with Austin on a supplement shift for the first time. I got to see how much of man he had become.” He said he could see himself in him, “with being a police officer and exhibiting my confidence.” When Austin finally woke up and opened his eyes, Rudy remembers him saying that he was OK. Rudy was so excited, and he gave him a hug and kiss.
On February 15, 2022, Austin was discharged from Good Samaritan Hospital, and Rudy was able to drive him home. On the way out of the hospital, he was greeted by his squad mates and close personal friends. “It was great to see the comradery of everyone coming over the house to show their support for Austin,” Rudy says. “I know he has his whole life ahead of him, and I am looking forward to him having grandchildren.”