Consider former felon Thomas Yoxall’s debt to society paid in full, with interest.
The man who shot and killed an assault suspect on a dark highway in Arizona, rescuing a state trooper, said on Wednesday that he doesn’t think of himself as a hero.
The Good Samaritan had requested media anonymity since the early-morning January 12 incident on Interstate 10.
Today, he made his first appearance since the incident at a news conference at the headquarters of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
He identified himself as Thomas Yoxall, 43, a maintenance supervisor with a passion for photography and reading.
And he mentioned that he has a “past.”
As court records show, that past includes a 2000 conviction for felony theft.
Fortunately for DPS Trooper Edward Andersson, whose life hung on the edge before Yoxall showed up on January 12, Yoxall had his gun rights restored in 2003 after he successfully completed probation.
Yoxall has paid back his debt to society — big-time.
“That morning, I never would have dreamt that I was going to save somebody’s life, let alone take the life of another individual,” Yoxall said. “I don’t recall any thought or feeling of fear. It happened very quickly. There wasn’t necessarily time for me to react, or think logically. I don’t consider myself a hero that day.”
Yet DPS officials describe Yoxall’s actions in terms that could, in fact, best be described as heroic.
Trooper Edward Andersson responded to a vehicle rollover and saw a man and woman ejected from a vehicle. As Andersson approached, the man—an illegal alien who used to be a federal Mexican police officer named Leonard Penuelas-Escobar—fired a handgun that hit Andersson in the shoulder. Penuelas-Escobar then began slamming Andersson’s head into the pavement, trying to kill him.
Yoxall saw the attack as it took place, pulled over, and grabbed the handgun he kept in the center console and ran to help Trooper Andersson. When Penuelas-Escobar refused to stop attacking Andersson and Andersson called for assistance, Yoxall took a firing position that didn’t put Andersson in the line of fire, and took two shots that put Penuelas-Escobar down. Mr. Yoxall then ran to assist Trooper Andersson, only to see Penuelas-Escobar rise up and come at them both. Yoxall then took careful aim and shot Penuelas-Escobar in the head, killing him.
Penuelas-Escobar and the woman killed in the incident,Vanessa Lopez-Ruiz, were allegedly meth users and drug dealers.
Mr. Yoxall did not let his checkered past dictate his future.
Maricopa County Superior Court records show a felony charge of theft from the year 2000, which later was reduced to a misdemeanor. According to court records, Yoxall admitted to stealing electronics items from a group home where he worked.
When petitioning the judge to reduce his felony conviction, Yoxall stressed that he was eager to be restored his right to bear arms. A felony conviction strips individuals of their right to possess a firearm, but they may be allowed the opportunity to have those rights reinstated.
“Before this incident, I was an avid shooter,” Yoxall wrote in 2003. “… I miss owning a gun. I miss shooting with my friends as well as my son. I hope, if nothing else, you will reinstate my civil rights to include the right to bear arms once again.”
In October 2003, a Superior Court judge vacated Yoxall’s guilty judgment and restored his right to possess a gun.
Mr. Yoxall is reformed man who took a life to save another life, and while he’s bothered by the paradox and replays the moment over and over again in his mind, he knows he did the right thing. Tellingly and maturely Yoxall said “it’s a right and a privilege to be a private gun owner,” and that exercising that right is a responsibility.
This non-violent felon who petitioned to have his rights restored showed that America is forever a land of second chances, and that heroes can come from anywhere, and anyone.