Dan Lovelace's career history
1996: Hired by Chandler Police Department.
2000: Initiates high-speed chase to pursue a stolen pickup. Driver runs a red light and kills college student Bradley Downing III. Parents sue the city.
2002: Shoots and kills Dawn Nelson, 35, in a drugstore drive-through after she tried to pass a forged prescription. Her 14-month-old son was in the car. Lovelace said he shot in self-defense after she drove her car toward his motorcycle; evidence shows she was shot from behind. Lovelace is fired and charged with second-degree murder. Widower Colby Nelson later sues the city.
2004: Tried and acquitted on the murder charges.
2002-2004: City settles with the Downing family and Nelson for a total of $4.6 million.
2005: Loses his bid to get his Chandler police job back. Officer and Chandler Law Enforcement Association leader Paul Babeu attends personnel hearings as a supporter. Lovelace applies for unpaid job as a reserve deputy for Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and is rejected.
2009: Babeu, now Pinal County Sheriff, hires Lovelace as a detention officer.
Pinal sheriff: Fired Chandler cop deserves his new job
by Edythe Jensen and Lindsey Collom - Jul. 31, 2009 07:22 AM
The Arizona Republic
Dan Lovelace was once the most talked-about cop in Chandler.
Now he's a detention officer in Pinal County working for another former Chandler police officer who took office as county sheriff this year.
Lovelace shot and killed a woman trying to fill a forged prescription at a drug store drive-though in 2002 while her toddler sat in the back seat. He was fired and charged with second-degree murder. A jury acquitted him, and in 2005 Lovelace fought unsuccessfully to get his job back.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu - a Chandler police officer and union leader before voters put him in office - sat with supporters at some of those proceedings. A few weeks ago, he hired Lovelace to work in a Florence jail.
"This man has been exonerated," Babeu said, declining to say if the two were friends. "He deserves to move on with his life." And he won't be carrying a gun on the job.
The former Chandler police chief who fired Lovelace agreed. "A person's got to make a living; you can't take that away from him," retired chief Bobby Joe Harris said. "I always liked Dan and I'm sure he will make a good detention officer."
Babeu said the college-educated Lovelace was hired in May and recently completed an eight-week detention officer training course in Tucson where he was selected to speak to his graduating class. He is working in the Pinal County Adult Detention Center in Florence, which houses up to 1,504 pretrial inmates, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, and individuals sentenced to county lockup. Corrections officers do not carry weapons, nor do they enforce the law, Babeu said.
The 2002 shooting death of Dawn Rae Nelson, 35, ended Lovelace's career on the Chandler force but many came to his defense. Two of the jurors who acquitted him of murder charges later befriended him and showed up at personnel hearings as Lovelace fought to get his job back.
A motorcycle officer at the time of shooting death, Lovelace also had been involved in a 2000 high-speed chase that killed a college student. He was given a letter of reprimand for not using his siren in the chase. The city settled wrongful-death lawsuits in both cases and paid out more than $4.6 million.
Efforts to contact Lovelace were unsuccessful but he told reporters in 2004 that he had difficulty finding work and had been doing landscaping and restaurant vent-cleaning jobs. His 2005 application to become an unpaid reserve deputy for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was rejected. Chandler police officials confirmed that his wife, Tricia Debbs, still works for the department as a dispatcher, a job she held when he was fired.
Lovelace wasn't the only disciplined Chandler cop who got backing from Babeu when he was a law enforcement union leader. In 2007, Babeu threw his support behind Sgt. Tom Lovejoy, who was arrested by Maricopa County Sheriff's officers in the death of his K9 in a hot patrol vehicle and later acquitted of animal cruelty charges. Another was John Carboun, who was fired by former Chief Harris in 2002 after he wrote a letter to the city manager claiming departmental safety violations. Carboun was reinstated in 2003 with a suspension and won a $380,438 court judgment against the city in 2007.
These days Babeu does more decision-making than defending. Around the same time he hired Lovelace, Babeu fired two Pinal County deputies, a dispatcher and a detention officer. One was an 18-year veteran who showed up for firearms training while he was intoxicated. Others were a deputy fired for violating policies, a detention officer dismissed for a DUI arrest and dishonesty, and dispatcher fired for not following instructions and dishonesty.
"I was elected to make decisions," Babeu said. "Some may be popular and some may not be popular. I'm going to do what's in the best interest of the agency and be fair and even-handed with everyone."