Trooper's Savior a Former Felon with Reinstated Gun Rights

Trooper's Savior a Former Felon with Reinstated Gun Rights
Thomas Yoxall (left) and state DPS Director Colonel Frank Milstead (right). photo from phoenixnewtimes.comweb photo

Earlier this month we reported that an Arizona State Trooper, who had been shot and was fighting with a suspect on an isolated stretch of Interstate 10, was saved by a passing motorist, who also happened to be a concealed carrier. The passer-by shot and killed the attacker, saving the trooper's life.

Now, it has been revealed that the concealed carrier is actually Thomas Yoxall, 43, a maintenance supervisor with a passion for photography and reading, according to this story from phoenixnewtimes.com. And according to Yoxall, he has a past.

According to court records, Yoxall was convicted in 2000 for felony theft, after which his gun rights were suspended. They were reinstated, however, in 2003 after Yoxall successfully completed probation.

"That morning, I never would have dreamt that I was going to save somebody's life, let alone take the life of another individual," Yoxall said in the story. "I don't recall any thought or feeling of fear. It happened very quickly. There wasn't necessarily time for me to react, or think logically. I don't consider myself a hero that day."

Yoxall attended a news conference this week, and told reporters he has no law enforcement training or military background and that he’s a shooting enthusiast who had his loaded handgun in the center console of his vehicle when he happened upon DPS Trooper Edward Andersson after seeing the remnants of the roll-over crash, which prompted Andersson to respond in the first place.

"I noticed the suspect on top of Trooper Andersson, beating him in a savage way," Yoxall said in the story. "I immediately pulled over. My commands were ignored by the suspect as (Andersson) called out for help. And I alleviated the threat to him."

Police say Yoxall positioned himself so that his shots wouldn’t harm the trooper before taking two shots at the suspect. Another Good Samaritan, Brian Schober, drove up and used the trooper’s radio to call for help.

And then, like something out of a horror movie, while Yoxall tried to comfort the wounded Andersson, the attacker got up and came at Yoxall, who fired again, hitting the man in the head, killing him.

The suspect was identified last week as former Mexican federale Leonard Penuelas-Escobar, 37, who was living in the country illegally. Penuelas-Escobar's girlfriend, Vanessa Lopez-Ruiz, 24, was killed in the rollover crash, according to this story on bearingarms.com.

Police called the couple meth users and accused drug dealers, the story says.

"My primary concern was the life and wellness of Trooper Andersson, first and foremost," he said. "There was no choice. I had no opportunity to even think about it rationally. I responded in the only way I know how to respond.”

Yoxall says in the story he has had difficulty reconciling the fact that he took a life to save one, and that he replays the incident in his head repeatedly.

"Doing the right thing sometimes has a price, and sometimes that price is severe," he said in the story. "I wouldn't change it because another man gets to go home to his family. I would not hesitate to respond in exactly the same fashion."

No other details were released about Yoxall’s crime that lead to his 2000 conviction.