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Thursday, 7 February 2008

firefighter drive-by shooting outside a Comfort Suites hotel.

Charles "Chucky" Whitaker is not coming back. And now, his wife, his teenage daughter, a stepson who recently joined the Navy, and an extended family of Dallas firefighters are left to wonder why.
The 38-year-old firefighter was put on life support after a drive-by shooting early Monday that seriously injured him and a colleague. Police in Peoria, Ariz., say that doctors pronounced Mr. Whitaker dead early Wednesday.
His family stood by his bedside as the life-support devices were removed, Dallas Fire Chief Eddie Burns said.
"We do not claim to understand the issues surrounding this tragic incident that led to the untimely demise of our brother," the chief said Wednesday. "What I can tell you is that Charles 'Chucky' Whitaker led a life rich in meaning. His contribution to the department and to the city has touched many lives."
A longtime friend, Eric McNairy, said Mr. Whitaker wasn't the type to be involved in a fight. He had spoken to Mr. Whitaker over the phone not long before the shooting, he said, and his friend was in high spirits.
"They were having a good time," Mr. McNairy said. "We were actually talking about how we could get back out there and play golf."
But then it happened at 1:50 a.m. Monday, after Mr. Whitaker and fellow firefighter Reginald Cuington watched the Super Bowl in a sports bar. They were walking back through the Phoenix suburb's entertainment district toward their room in a Comfort Suites hotel. Police say a car pulled up, and someone inside opened fire.
Mr. Whitaker was shot in the leg, chest and head. Lt. Cuington, who was shot in the leg, made his way back to their hotel to get help. Both were taken to area hospitals.
The bar's staff told investigators that the pair were good customers, and they did not appear to trade harsh words with anyone.
"We've gone back, re-interviewed people, everything, and we are not coming up with anything," said Mike Tellef of the Peoria police. "There doesn't seem to have been any arguments, disputes, no fights – nothing."
Lt. Cuington, a 17-year veteran of Dallas Fire-Rescue, remained in stable condition Wednesday.
Mr. Whitaker, a 14-year department veteran, had wanted to be a firefighter since growing up in southern Dallas, according to Mr. McNairy. Fun-loving and outgoing, he was a kid from a sometimes-rough neighborhood who grew up to be a positive force for his community.
"His sense of duty and mission to protect the citizens, and his fellow firefighters, and more importantly his family, will never be forgotten," Chief Burns said. "The city of Dallas and the Dallas Fire-Rescue department have lost a hero."
Mr. Whitaker still stayed connected in spirit to his old neighborhood. He would greet his friends loudly, "What the business is?" Then he'd



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