A condemned killer who fought to drop his appeals, saying he owed it to his victims, was executed Tuesday by injection.
Robert Charles Comer, 50, the first inmate to be put to death in Arizona since November 2000, smiled throughout his execution, which began at 1:03 p.m. ET. The smile faded as he let out his breath. He was pronounced dead at a minute later.
Comer was convicted in a 1987 crime spree in which he killed a fellow camper east of Phoenix. He also was convicted of repeatedly raping a female camper that night, once in front of her boyfriend.
He was strapped to a gurney and covered from the shoulders down with a sheet when the curtains were pulled back to allow witnesses to see him Tuesday. He looked around and mouthed "Hi, how are you" toward witnesses who were not visible to the media.
Warden Carson McWilliams then asked him if he had any last words. Comer said, "Yes, Go Raiders," referring to the American professional football team known in the late 1970s as being particularly aggressive.
'An eye for an eye'
At a 2002 competency hearing, Comer admitted killing Larry Pritchard after eating a campfire dinner with the man. He said then that it was about time he paid for the crime.
"I killed Larry Pritchard. Stuck a gun in his ear and pulled the trigger, he's dead," Comer said, according to transcripts from the hearing. "An eye for an eye. I mean, I ended a whole bunch of innocent people's lives and changed their lives forever. Even though they're still alive, their lives are destroyed. I owe that to them. I owe it to myself, man. I was totally wrong."
"I don't know what everybody's so scared about," he added then. "Death is not that damn bad."
Comer fought for seven years to be executed. He spent much of that time just proving he was competent to make the decision.
At his sentencing, he had been brought into a courtroom strapped to a wheelchair, bloodied, barely conscious and naked except for a towel on his lap after struggling with guards.
In prison, he was cited 43 times between 1988 and 2001 for infractions including making knives and shanks, fighting with prisoners and guards and setting fires in his cell.
About a dozen people demonstrated against the death penalty about a mile away from the prison entrance Tuesday.
Arizona has executed 86 people, 22 of them since resuming the death penalty in 1992.