BANGOR, Maine — A Christmas party in Tempe, Ariz., turned deadly when a former Bangor man was shot to death early Sunday after a man who was told to leave the holiday gathering returned with a gun and fired into a group of attendees, according to police.
Jeff Ward, 28, was shot by a man who lived in the same apartment building where the holiday party was being held, Tempe police Sgt. Michael Pooley said Monday.
Ward is the son of Jim and Debbie Ward of Bangor and also is survived by a sister, Kelly Ward, of Bangor, according to family friend Elizabeth Wilson. Jeff Ward was a 2004 Bangor High School graduate and was living and working in Tempe, Wilson said.
Police said the man accused of the shooting, Daniel Taylor, 18, lives in the apartment complex at 850 S. River Drive with his mother and is unemployed. Taylor was arrested after a standoff and was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault. He also shot a woman who remained in the hospital Monday morning, Pooley said.
Taylor, dressed entirely in camouflage, tried to crash the Christmas gathering, which was attended by about 15 friends including Ward, Pooley said.
“He was not invited, but he thought he could just come in anyway,” the sergeant said. “They asked him to leave. He came back about an hour later, this time he was wearing a suit coat, slacks and a nice shirt.”
After socializing for a short time, the apartment tenants recognized him and again asked him to leave, Pooley said.
“He came back about 20 minutes later back in camouflage and had a gun,” the sergeant said.
Taylor, who was armed with a handgun, arrived for the third time at about 2 a.m. and “reached into the patio area and just started firing rounds, six to eight rounds,” Pooley said. “Unfortunately, one of those did strike Jeff Ward in the neck” and killed him.
A woman, whose name and age were not released, also was struck by a bullet and was taken to an area hospital, the sergeant said. Where the bullet struck her and her condition were not available, Pooley said.
Police said Taylor was known to walk around the apartment complex displaying a gun on his hip. He resisted arrest, Pooley said.
“He wasn’t coming out originally,” Pooley said. “We had to call our SWAT team.”
The standoff caused the evacuation of the building and lasted more than 3 hours before Taylor surrendered to police and was charged, the sergeant said. He had been drinking, Pooley said.
News of Ward’s death drew strong reaction from his friends in Maine.
“He’s one of my oldest friends,” Wilson, 28, a lifelong family friend of the Wards, said Monday in an emailed statement.
The Wards are originally from Houlton but moved to Bangor years ago, she said, adding, “our parents are best friends and they all grew up together as well.”
“He comes from one of the most loving and giving families I’ve ever known and this loss has fallen heavy on all of their hearts,” said Wilson, a Houlton native living in Portland. “I reached out to his friends from Bangor, on behalf of his mother, to tell them of his passing. The overall response was shock.”
Matt Cassidy, 28, of Bangor said he lost more than just a friend.
“Jeff Ward was more than one of my best friends, he became my brother over the 18 years I knew him,” he said in an email.
“He was hands down the most genuine, adventurous, best friend to do absolutely anything with,” Cassidy said.
Ward’s parents were contacted by law enforcement on Sunday, according to Pooley. They are flying to Arizona on Tuesday to celebrate their son’s life with his Arizona friends who had become his second family, Wilson said. A Maine memorial is planned for next week.
“As a kid he was a boy’s boy — competitive, athletic and hard to keep up with, we’d always get into trouble trying to impress each other,” she said in an email interview. “When we reconnected as young adults, I couldn’t get over what a tender spirit he had developed. He was warm and kind — not the rough-’n’-tough little kid I had played with at the lake and certainly not the toddler I took baths with. I told him several times I wished he lived closer because I really enjoyed getting reacquainted with ‘grown up Jeff.’”
Ward was a former student at Arizona State University, Pooley said.
“It’s terrible,” Pooley said.
BDN reporter Emily Burnham contributed to this story.
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