Moments after being informed the armed suspect was a White man wearing a dark shirt and tan pants, Tempe police officer Ronald Kerzaya had his gun drawn on a Black man wearing a grey shirt and dark pants, telling him he “matches your description.”
“You going to shoot me?” hotel employee Trevonyae Cumpian asks as he drops to his knees with his hands up. It is 103 degrees and the asphalt is burning through his pants.
“Am I going to be another person on the news.”
“Shut the fuck up with that shit,” the officer responds holding Cumpain at gunpoint.
The incident occurred on August 29 at Hawthorn Suites hotel in Tempe, Arizona after the manager of the hotel had called police about two White people smoking in a stairwell and pulling out a firearm when confronted.
The video shows Kerzaya is given a description of the armed suspect as a White male in a black shirt and tan pants. Kerzaya exits the hotel, drawing his weapon and within a minute holds Cumpian as he exits the hotel. Cumpian, who is Black, is wearing a gray shirt and dark pants.
“I work here,” says Cumpian as he is ordered to the ground.
“I am responding to somebody with a firearm who matches your description,” the cop says.
“What I’m scared of is someone is going to lose their life because of him in the near future,” Cumpian said in an interview with AZCentral. “He’s going to kill someone.”
The detention lasts for three minutes, ending once Kerzaya is told that Cumpian is a hotel employee. Kerzaya then proceeds to draw his weapon on two other people exiting the hotel, prompting one to run back inside.
The stop is a departure not only from departmental orders but the law. An officer is only allowed to detain someone when they have “reasonable suspicion” which is an articulable fact that links someone to a crime that has, is, or is about to occur.
Matching a description of someone can constitute reasonable suspicion and allow an officer to initiate a detention when close in time and proximity to an incident. However as shown clearly in the video, Cumpian was not a White male, nor was he wearing a black shirt.
This incident was quickly picked up by local news outlets prompting police to release a statement:
“Our initial review indicates that this incident was not handled in accordance with the professionalism and respectful behavior that we, and the public, have for our officers,” spokesman Detective Greg Bacon said in a released statement.
Tempe Mayor Corey Woods also released a statement saying:
“A recent event between a Tempe Police Officer and a member of a local hotel staff is both disturbing and disappointing.
“While the matter is under investigation and we will await the outcome of that examination, from our early review of the body camera footage, the Officer’s actions were not a demonstration of the quality of service or treatment of people that Tempe seeks to, can and must provide.”
This is not the first time Kerzaya has been in the news . In June of 2019, Kerzaya’s body camera captured an incident during a domestic violence call in which he used a stun gun on a man holding his 1-year-old child. While the department determined that Kerzaya’s use of force was within departmental policy, it has left Cumpian feeling lucky that he was not shot and killed.
“He looked like he’s unstable and it just seemed like he was playing a video game,” said Cumpian after reviewing surveillance video of the incident. – AZCentral