The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is investigating an Arizona police sergeant who faced serious allegations of misconduct at two police departments.
The ABC15 Investigators reported Friday about the history of Globe Sgt. Jeffrey Overton, who was disciplined last year for tasering a mentally ill woman.
Overton, who had worked only one year in Globe, was investigating a possible domestic violence situation in September 2020. He and other officers entered Memory Burns's apartment, without a warrant, to investigate. Officers cornered her in her bedroom, tasered her, and arrested her. Memory Burns, 35, had committed no crime that night, did not have a weapon, and was home alone.
A woman, who suffers from serious mental illness, has filed a $5-million legal claim against the City of Globe.
Police Chief Dale Walters apologized for the officer's actions, and he suspended Overton for violating policy by using his Taser on Memory.
"People under stress say and do things that they probably shouldn't do," Chief Walters said. "How you beat that bad behavior is you address it through training and corrective action."
Memory's dad says Sgt. Overton flagrantly violated his daughter's civil rights. The family filed a notice of claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, in March.
"Anybody that would do that, even like right now, to me, shouldn't be an officer," said Lewis Williams, Memory's dad.
The ABC15 Investigators obtained documents showing Sgt. Overton's history from when he worked as an officer in Pinetop-Lakeside from 2006 to 2019.
Sgt. Overton received the police department's Medal of Honor for his actions during an active shooter situation at the Hon-Dah Casino in 2014.
He also racked up misconduct cases including six police car crashes, sexual harassment of a co-worker, mishandled DUI investigations, failure to follow police procedure in a domestic violence case, and refusing to go to a call at a mental health facility.
"He has a terrible history," said Memory's lawyer, Robert J. Campos.
The worst incident happened in May 2019 when Overton claimed someone shot at his patrol car. Multiple police agencies rushed to his aid.
"He complained that he thought somebody was trying to ambush him, and there was nobody there," Campos said. "An investigation ensued, and they found out that it was all in his imagination."
In documents obtained by ABC15, Pinetop-Lakeside Police Chief Dan Barnes wrote Overton violated six policies including willful neglect of duty. The chief added “the public’s safety and trust were jeopardized” by Officer Jeffrey Overton’s actions. When Overton learned to was about to be fired, he quit.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standard and Training Board requires all police agencies to report every time an officer leaves for whatever reason. The report is required within 15 days, but the chief in Pinetop-Lakeside waited seven months to report officer Overton left.
When the chief filed, he indicated no misconduct was involved in Overton's separation from the agency. The town manager said, in an email, only certain conduct needs to be reported, and "the town is confident that its decision complies with applicable laws and regulations." Pinetop-Lakeside's town manager and police chief both declined interviews with ABC15.
As a result, AZPOST was not aware of Overton's conduct and could not investigate or flag his certification file. The agency also had already signed off on Overton's new job in Globe.
After watching ABC15's report on the sergeant's history, AZPOST's executive director told ABC15 a case is now open on Overton. He added AZPOST does routinely work with police departments to ensure they understand reporting requirements.
Globe's Chief Dale Walters said in an email that "an independent firm" conducts "background investigations and polygraphs." Applicants also must pass both a psychological and medical evaluation. The chief emailed ABC15 saying those employment checks did not turn up the disciplinary history ABC15 now has about Overton.
"The community should be concerned because he's a walking time bomb," Campos said. "This man is unfit to serve that community. He hears and sees things that are not there. He believes an ambush is around the corner."
ABC15 tried to reach out to Sgt. Overton several times but did not get a response. He continues to patrol the streets of Globe.