August 19, 2022

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The Legal System

Ex-girlfriend of Phoenix police shooting suspect arrested

3 min read

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Authorities are accusing the girlfriend of a police shooting suspect of tampering with evidence after finding cell phones in her toilet tank.

PHOENIX — A woman who is accused of being the accomplice to a suspect involved in a Phoenix police shooting was arrested Sunday, yet her lawyer claims that her arrest was improper. 

Nicole Montalbano, 34, was arrested on numerous charges and was booked into Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail after her boyfriend, 35-year-old Nicholas Cowan, was arrested on Sunday during an hours-long standoff near 66th Place and Osborne in Scottsdale, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) said.

Montalbano is accused of tampering with and destroying evidence related to Cowan, who allegedly shot and injured a Phoenix Police Department officer last week. 

RELATED: Man accused of shooting Phoenix police officer, accomplice arrested after standoff

Montalbano’s lawyer said authorities went against legal procedures by arresting her in Prescott Valley in Yavapai County and then bringing her before a judge in Maricopa County. 

The lawyer also said Montalbano was supposed to be released from police custody Sunday night but accused officials of stalling her release to include additional charges.

“Frankly Judge, I think that kind of gymnastics and manipulation of law, rule and statutes shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Jim O’Haver, Montalbano’s lawyer.

The judge responded by saying the Maricopa court had jurisdiction in the matter due to the crime being committed in both Maricopa and Yavapai counties. The judge also ordered Montalbano to be held non-bondable. 

Evidence tampering

Authorities are accusing Montalbano of hindering Cowan’s apprehension and tampering with physical evidence. 

Court documents show that after Cowan allegedly shot the officer at a Phoenix gas station Thursday, he left the scene in a blue Toyota Prius and was picked up at an apartment complex by a person in a pickup truck. 

While in the truck, authorities said Cowan made several calls to a cell phone that was later traced back to Montalbano. During one of the calls, police said the person talking to Cowan asked for directions to where he was located. 

Detectives used cell phone records to determine that Montalbano allegedly went to where Cowan was and then back to Prescott Valley. Police said Montalbano treated Cowan’s wounds from being shot by police. 

On Saturday, authorities used a search warrant to find Montalbano’s cell phone and a prepaid phone in the toilet tank as well as floor mats from Montalbano’s car with apparent blood stains on them. Cowan’s IDs were also found at Montalbano’s home, authorities said. 

Officials said Montalbano denied picking up Cowan, communicating with him in the past two weeks and driving to Phoenix on Thursday. Officials said she also denied having a cell phone and said she did not know where Cowan was. 

During the search, officers said they called the number found in phone records and heard a cell phone ringing in Montalbano’s home. 

Police shooting

The search for Cowan was sparked on Thursday after police were called out to a domestic violence situation near Cave Creek and Beardsley roads.

RELATED: FBI joins search for suspect, reward grows to $35k after female officer injured in Phoenix police shooting

A woman called 911 and asked to meet police at a gas station because she was afraid of a confrontation with Cowan, the department said.

The woman claimed Cowan had attempted to commit suicide and threatened to shoot officers if she called the police.

While officers were speaking to the woman, police say Cowan arrived at the gas station in a vehicle.

At that point, an officer walked toward Cowan and say he fired a handgun from inside his Toyota Prius, striking the officer. Multiple officers returned fired at the Toyota. 

After Cowan was arrested, it was discovered that he had been wounded. Police said he ditched the car and was helped by multiple people until his arrest.

The injured officer was transported to a local hospital where she underwent surgery and is recovering. As of Sunday, the officer remains in intensive care but is stable.

A manhunt across the Valley ensued after that and the search was assisted by the FBI.

There was a $35,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest.

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