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Arizona Officer Draws Weapon on An Unarmed Black Employee of Hotel That Had Called Cops on A White Armed Man

A Tempe police officer is facing scrutiny after pulling a gun on an unarmed Black hotel employee last month. Officer Ronald Kerzaya has been moved to an administrative role pending an investigation after he pointed his gun at Hawthorne Suites employee Trevonyae Cumpian on Aug. 30.

Kerzaya responded to a call to the Tempe department’s non-emergency line requesting that two people suspected of engaging in illegal activities at Hawthorne Suites in Tempe, Arizona be removed from the premises.

Shawn Hoover, the general manager of Hawthorne Suites, saw a white couple smoking something in the stairwell, and asks them to leave. He said the man pulled out a gun before they left. Cumpian followed the couple to be sure that they left the property.

When Kerzaya arrived on scene and spoke to Hoover, he repeatedly asked if the man with the gun was Black or white. Hoover offered to show Kerzaya footage of the armed man, but the officer declined and began to search the premises for the suspect.

He passed by two white people sitting outside, and told them they should go inside, and that he was looking for a suspect. But when he encountered Cumpian, he ordered him to put his hands in the air, and pointed a gun at him. Cumpian raised his hands and told the officer he worked at the hotel. The encounter between Cumpian and Kerzaya was captured the officer’s body camera, and the footage was obtained by The Arizona Republic.

“Hey! Listen! I am responding to somebody with a firearm who matches your description!” Kerzaya yelled.

“You going to shoot me? Am I going to be another person on the news?” Cumpian asked, requesting that the officer lower his weapon.

“Shut the f-ck up with that sh-t,” Kerzaya replied.

Cumpian was then ordered to drop to his knees and put his phone and keys on the ground. He complied. When Cumpian again told the officer he worked at the hotel and suggested that Kerzaya ask the manager, the officer responded, “Stop telling me what to do!”

Kerzaya asked over his radio for someone to confirm that Cumpian worked at the hotel, as Cumpain continuously asked the officer to lower the gun.

“When I’m responding to somebody with a firearm, I can do what I need to to stay safe and go home to my family,” Kerzaya said.

After three minutes passed and Kerzaya confirmed Cumpian was an employee, he was allowed to leave.

The armed man has not been found.

Cumpian spoke to The Arizona Republic about Kerzaya, saying, “he’s going to kill someone.”

Kerzaya was previously accused of using excessive force in June 2019 when he tased an unarmed Black man named Ivaugh Oakry in his own apartment while he was holding his 1-year-old child. Police were responding to a domestic violence call to the non-emergency line. Oakry was arrested but charges against him were later dropped.

After the incident, Kerzaya underwent “re-training,” although the police department said his actions were consistent with policy. Re-training consists of learning about different de-escalation tactics, and improving communication with citizens.

Heather Hamel, Oakry’s attorney said that the second incident involving Cumpian was allowed to happen because Kerzaya was not disciplined after the first incident. “They sent an implicit message that what he did was OK,” Hamel said. “And you know what he did with that message? He went out and did it again.”

A lawsuit has been brought against Kerzaya and the city of Tempe in the Oakry case. The suit challenges the Tempe Police Department’s use-of-force training and questions the lack of implementation of de-escalation tactics.

Cumpian said he believes Kerzaya should no longer be on the force. The officer has currently been moved to an administrative role and an internal investigation is underway.

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