The call early yesterday morning was about a burglary in progress. It was just after 4 a.m. when Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy William Coleman, joined by two other deputies, sped over to Angel Pediatrics to investigate the report. In the parking lot they spotted a minivan. The driver appeared asleep; with him in the vehicle was a pet pit bull. The deputies tapped on the driver’s window to get his attention.
Deputy Coleman was a 20-year veteran officer. In just hours he was scheduled to finish his final night shift before transferring to day duties. He had four children, two of them very young.
The stop must have seemed like no big deal. But suddenly, just before dawn in a strip-mall parking lot, it was.
The stranger in the minivan rose up and began firing a semi-automatic rifle at the deputies.
Coleman was hit under his bulletproof vest. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The man in the minivan died in the ensuing gunfight with the other deputies.
The shooter’s response was so unexpected and severe that almost immediately investigators wondered if he was responsible for a mysterious double homicide just days before.
James Johnson and Carol Raynsford, both 63 and from New Hampshire, had road-tripped to Arizona to look for a house for Johnson. The two were known for their love of nature and interest in spiritual healing, so it wasn’t surprising that they’d pull into a popular scenic lookout known for its view of the Sedona red rocks, a place some describe as soul-nourishing.
What they encountered was a far darker force. On Friday morning members of a local Jeep club discovered the bodies of Johnson and Raynsford in their parked sedan. The crime scene revealed that someone wielding a .223-caliber rifle had fired at them while they sat in the car. Numerous casings littered both sides of the vehicle. There was no sign of confrontation, or robbery. It looked like an ambush.
The Sedona murders share similarities with the attack on Deputy Coleman. Both crime scenes involve a semi-automatic rifle; both are just off Interstate 17; and both appear to be mysterious ambushes without a clear motive.
Judging from the writings of the just-identified shooter of Deputy Coleman, Drew Ryan Maras, 30, the motive may never be entirely clear.
Maras’ Facebook profile shows an attractive, clean-cut young man with over 4,000 “friends.” He indicates he once served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and studied at Arizona State University. He likes skiing, wakeboarding, and the Chicago Bears.
Drew Ryan Maras
But a closer look reveals a more complex person, someone whose obsessions contradict the image of the well-scrubbed jock. Maras’ posts are about natural disasters, erupting volcanoes and masses of dead fish washing up on the shore of Norway.
“Something is not right and Mother Earth is trying to tell us something,” he writes.
His photos are a mishmash of a conspiracy theorist’s greatest hits --- missiles, pyramids, JFK’s funeral, and “energy vortexes” including Stonehenge and the Bermuda Triangle.
And some red rocks that looked familiar, and a Google Image match confirmed --- indeed, they are the red rocks of Sedona.
In 2010 Maras self-published a book called Open Your Eyes: To 2012 and Beyond. The book addresses a wide-range of topics, but the title of the first chapter, “Established Prophecies of Dire Warning,” gives one the gist. He’s interested in UFOs, ancient aliens, and the 2012 prophecy.
One turn of phrase Maras used to describe the book struck me, both for how it (probably unintentionally) revealed how closed off the author was from mainstream life, and for its odd poetry.
In writing the book Maras wished to bring “the world I see from behind my eyes.”
While the writings are eccentric, erratic and possibly a sign of mental illness, nothing I read hinted at any violent tendencies, although interestingly he does mention being trained as an “0311 (rifleman) in the Marine Corps.”
A news report says that Maras was recently living in Peoria, outside Phoenix, doing seasonal work. Before that it appears he was living in Colorado. A March 27, 2010 story from SummitDaily.com, out of Summit County, details how Maras and his brother, both in the 6 ‘6” or higher range, are going to play “pro hoops,” joining the Oregon Waves, part of the International Basketball League. No more information about the basketball experience is available.
The circumstances of the shootout in the parking lot are a little odd; it’s possible Maras wasn’t committing a burglary, but triggered the alarm and lay in wait for the deputies, in hopes of dying by “suicide by cop,” in a hail of gunfire. His death means the truth will likely never be known.
What should be clear soon, through ballistic testing, is if he also killed Johnson and Raynsford near Sedona. If he did, the irony is that both the victims and their killer seem to have revered the power of the red rocks. Maybe Maras, sensing the end was near, saw the power as no longer healing, but destructive, and took heed.
From Open Your Eyes: 2012 and Beyond:
"The end as we know it is barreling down on us, yet we don't move to respond."