Last Wednesday, Sept. 24, an Oro Valley police officer shot and killed a man at a Tucson shopping center whom authorities said was a suspected drug dealer.
The officer, 14-year veteran Pete Klegg, 40, along with an undercover team, acted on a tip about a possible heroin deal involving students from Canyon Del Oro High School, according to Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp.
The Oro Valley Police Department Community Action Team (CAT) later located and followed the suspected dealer, 20-year-old Santhiel Bustamante, and an unidentified passenger, to various locations around the Northwest.
Bustamante later stopped at the Wal-Mart shopping center at First Avenue and Wetmore Road, where police say he allegedly sold drugs.
“They (Oro Valley police) witnessed a drug transaction between the driver and another vehicle,” Tucson Police Department spokesman Lt. Rick Middleton said.
The Tucson police have taken the lead role in the shooting investigation and Oro Valley police will handle the ongoing drug investigation.
After the drug deal occurred, according to police, undercover Oro Valley officers moved in to arrest Bustamante.
The officers used their cars to block Bustamante’s path when, in a possible attempt to flee, he put the car into reverse and rammed one of the officer’s cars.
Bustamante then put the car into drive, possibly slamming into other Oro Valley police car. Klegg then got out of his car and shot Bustamante, Middleton said.
Bustamante’s car rolled onto the sidewalk where it crashed through the window of a beauty salon supply store.
Klegg has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.
Authorities pronounced Bustamante dead at the scene.
Tucson police have not confirmed whether Bustamante was armed when he was killed, Middleton said.
A search of Bustamante’s car turned up more than 21 grams of heroin, divided into separate bags. Police also found eight small bags of cocaine with an unknown total weight.
Officers also found $832 in cash inside the car.
The incident marks the first time an Oro Valley police officer killed someone in the line of duty and the first shooting for the department since 1995.
Bustamante’s passenger was not injured but later complained of chest pains. He was taken to University Medical Center.
The police have not released his identity.
Tucson police said that Bustamante, despite previous reports, was not an illegal immigrant. He was a legal permanent resident.
Bustamante had a history of run-ins with the law, though no criminal convictions, according to a representative from the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
In August, Tucson police arrested Bustamante for drug possession. Police confiscated 1.97 grams of cocaine and plastic bags from him.
He had a court hearing scheduled for later this month.
In booking forms, Bustamante listed his residence as a house on the 2700 Block of West Roadrunner Road.
The house is located on Tucson’s southwest side, near Drexel and Mission roads.
The incident comes at a time when concerns about teen drug use at CDO run high.
In August, two Northwest teens died of possible drug overdoses. One was a CDO senior; the other dropped out last school term.
Records from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office confirm the second teen died from a lethal dose of methadone.
Doctors commonly prescribe the drug, a synthetic opiate, to recovering heroin addicts.
Methadone is also a powerful painkiller. But unlike similar drugs, methadone works slowly.
That makes the drug risky when used recreationally, according to Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Anthony Coulson, who’s based in Tucson.
He said users of the drug who don’t feel its effects rapidly often take additional doses. But when the drug finally takes effect, the user may already have taken a fatal quantity.
Overall, drug use has fallen countrywide, Coulson said in an phone interview last week. But two categories of drugs stand out as exceptions to the trend — prescription medications and heroin.
Coulson said Arizona has become the top entry point for heroin into the United States.
In recent years, authorities have seen a 60 percent increase in the amount of heroin seizures nationwide, he said.
Illicit use of powerful prescription painkillers like oxycodone also has skyrocketed.
Coulson described prescription painkiller abuse as “the No. 1 emerging drug problem in the United States.”
Northwest-area high schools have witnessed numerous drug arrests, according to police reports.
Last year, Pima County Sheriff’s deputies investigated at least 15 drug- or alcohol-related incidents at Marana’s Mountain View High School.
Most of the investigations and arrests involved marijuana possession, but at least one student was arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs.
Marana police made at least 17 drug arrests at Marana High School in the 2007-08 term. In four of those cases, students were arrested for possession of prescription drugs, one with the narcotic oxcodone.
Oro Valley police also made 17 drug arrests at area high schools in the previous term.
On the day of the shooting, Oro Valley police arrested a CDO student for possession of heroin. Police are not sure if Bustamante was the student’s connection.
Chief Sharp said the department has made an effort to fight youth drug use.
He disputed previously published stories that suggest increased drug use among the town’s teen population.
Instead, Sharp said his police have worked quickly to find drug dealers at the schools.
“It’s ironic that when we identify a problem and work proactively, people think we have a large problem,” Sharp said.
He would not comment further on the ongoing drug investigation that resulted in last week’s fatal shooting.