Arizona shooting suspect linked to white supremacy group

Ryan Giroux, 41, suspected of killing one and injuring five others, faces charges of murder and attempted murder

Ryan Giroux, 41.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office / AP

Authorities are trying to determine what prompted an ex-convict who appears to be a white supremacist to allegedly shoot and kill one person and wound five others during a rampage in a Phoenix suburb, where officers flooded the streets in an intensive hunt for the gunman.

Police in Mesa, Arizona, said the string of crimes Wednesday included a motel shooting, a carjacking and a home invasion, and ended with the suspect's arrest.

He was taken into custody after officers spotted him on an apartment balcony and used a stun gun on him. Numerous officers led the handcuffed man to a truck parked outside the apartment complex.

Police later identified him as Ryan Giroux, 41, who has served three stints in state prison since 1994. He was booked into jail Thursday on suspicion of murder and numerous other crimes including armed robbery, auto theft, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

A handcuffed Giroux on Thursday made his first appearance before a judge since the shooting events occurred, and heard the many charges against him.

A prosecutor asked that bond be set at $2 million for what he called a "spree of multiple serious offenses." The judge set a court date for next week.

A 2012 mug shot from the Arizona Department of Corrections shows Giroux with several face and neck tattoos, including the word "skinhead" written across his eyebrows. Also visible in the 2012 mug shot are the number “88” — neo-Nazi code for “Hitler” — on his left temple, and on his chin an image of “Thor’s Hammer,” another symbol adopted by many white supremacists.

A newly released mug shot shows a bloodied and scraped up Giroux without many of the facial tattoos visible.

Ryan Giroux in a 2012 mug shot.
Arizona Department of Corrections / AP

Giroux was a member of Hammerskin Nation, a notoriously violent racist group, said a retired Mesa Police detective who once infiltrated local skinhead groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The Hammerskin group — which the Anti-Defamation League describes as best-organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the country —made national headlines in 2012 when one of its members, Wade Michael Page, shot up a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six people and injuring four others.

SPLC monitors hate groups throughout the United States and says it has found 16 in Arizona. It described four of them primarily as neo-Nazi, three as white nationalist and one as racist skinhead.

The shootings on Wednesday started with an argument that began inside a motel room and spilled outside, leaving one man dead and two women wounded, Mesa police Detective Esteban Flores said.

Police said that the motive for the motel shooting was unclear, and that other three shootings appeared motivated by robbery and the suspect's attempt to flee.

After the motel incident, the gunman shot a man working at a nearby restaurant. The victim, an adult student at the nearby East Valley Institute of Technology, was able to run across the street to emergency responders already at the motel, Flores said. The school issued a statement saying the victim was one of seven students and an instructor working at Bistro 13 restaurant. The student was treated at a hospital and released.

Vinny Carbone, who owns an auto body shop near the motel and restaurant, said he was getting ready to open when he heard a man yell "Help, help" from Bistro 13 across the street. He turned and saw a woman outside the motel with what looked like a bullet hole in her side.

"She was in a chair but she was holding onto another chair, shaking, trying to keep her balance," Carbone said. "Another guy, he had blood on the back of his shirt."

The gunman fled from the restaurant by carjacking the school instructor's car.

Police say the man then went to an apartment complex about two miles away, where he went into an apartment and shot a man. That victim will survive, police said.

A police officer found another man in a neighboring apartment building with multiple gunshot wounds, and Flores said that victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

After the shootings Mesa police searched the trunks of cars, interviewed witnesses and brought in SWAT and canine units from other agencies. Flores warned people in the neighborhood to remain indoors.

Giroux had served prison terms totaling more than eight years for burglary, theft, attempted aggravated assault and a marijuana violation, according to an Arizona Department of Corrections profile.

He was first incarcerated in 1994 and returned to prison in late 1995, before being released about a year later. He then returned to prison in mid-2007 and was released in late 2013.

Last year, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge allowed Giroux to remain on probation despite an unspecified probation violation.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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