Nicole Piccone and her 21-year-old daughter Alexandra Vaughan said they first saw the police lights through their blinds and heard the helicopter above their house. They knew there were police in the area, but had not gotten much information from news channels or law enforcement.
After seeing the lights, Vaughan got up out of her armchair to look through the window.
When the first gunshots echoed through Railroad Springs, Piccone said they had trouble processing what had happened. Nearly a second later, multiple shots peppered through the side of their home. The two women later counted 16 bullets that had rained into their homes.
The bullets were meant for Preston Oszust, 20, and Marcus Gishal, 20, who died from their wounds in the officer-involved shooting. The Arizona Department of Public Safety was the agency whose officers fired at the men, and said the two suspects who fled from a traffic violation shot at the officers first. One officer was shot in the hand.
The bullets that were aimed at the suspects pierced through the center of the armchair Vaughan had been sitting in moments before, pierced through the floorboards, a cabinet, the tree outside, an electric keyboard, dog food and soda cans, the wire of a vintage lamp and a bathtub. Miraculously, the bullets avoided the two women, their two cats, two bunnies, five pet rats, and the numerous flammable oxygen tanks that Piccone uses to help with her breathing.
Piccone said she felt blessed that she, her daughter and their animals were not hurt in the shooting.
“Whatever it is, I know luck and it’s beyond luck,” Piccone said.
Piccone has mobility issues with a spinal injury and made the decision to drop to the floor in the hope of avoiding a bullet. Judging by the bullet holes in her home, Piccone said a shot flew through her home inches from her head. The same bullet was inches from an oxygen tank.
The safety department has not responded to comments on their policy for how to keep incidents involving firearms out of residential neighborhoods. They also have not detailed what weapons were used in the incident and what had been done to prevent this altercation.
When the shots erupted, Piccone's neighbor, Molly Parafiniuk, who is pregnant with her second child, said she dropped to the floor. She screamed for her children, as her husband crawled to the other side of their home to check on their daughter.
After the shooting stopped, Parafiniuk said she eventually looked through the window and saw one of the suspects on the ground.
“I really regret looking out the window,” Parafiniuk said.
Parafiniuk, Piccone and her daughter all say they have had trouble sleeping in the days since. Whenever they hear a sudden noise outside, they get concerned. In addition, Parafiniuk said she has seen people slowly driving by their home looking at the scene.
She said that some people have even walked up to where the suspects were shot, and alleged one of them called it “fascinating.”
“I want things to go back to normal. I want to open my window and not have that flashback,” Parafiniuk said. “Just to be able to open my window and start my day, peaceful, looking at my beautiful Flagstaff ponderosa pines and the birds and the squirrels.”
Parafiniuk said she came from a family of officers and didn’t blame the police officers for their work. Piccone also was thankful for what the officers did, saying she and her daughter hoped to visit the injured officer and give him thank you cards.
“Both of us would like to meet him and say thank you, because this could have been so much worse,” Piccone said.
In total, four officers shot at the two suspects and three were left uninjured. One of the officers in the incident had worked for the department for five years, while the others worked for two years.
A department official explained that the officers have been placed on paid administrative leave following the incident. The department does not have a set time their officers are placed on leave following incidents involving firearms, said Kameron Lee, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
“I don’t know if and when these particular employees will return to duty,” Lee said.
Both the Flagstaff Police Department and Arizona Department of Public Safety investigative reports have not been released at this time.