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‘At least 30’ Phoenix officers had challenge coin tied to hate speech

Challenge coin
Posted at 11:32 AM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-11 00:17:15-05

A Phoenix Police Department internal investigation discovered at least 30 officers had celebratory memorabilia related to a protester shot in the groin with a rubber-tipped gas round, according to records obtained by ABC15.

The number was cited in a federal lawsuit filed by one of the officers under investigation.

Officer Christopher Turiano, who fired the shot, is suing Phoenix to prevent the police department from obtaining his personal cell phone data and investigating him further for denying access.

The city believes the data may have more information about the distribution and origin of coins, patches, hats, and t-shirts, which all share a common image that has ties to hate speech.

ABC15 exposed the existence of challenge coins that celebrated Turiano shooting a protester in the groin on Aug. 22, 2017. The incident was aired during live news coverage and quickly went viral.

After ABC15’s report, Phoenix launched an internal investigation and ordered a separate outside investigation.

Despite the probes, Phoenix investigators said they have been unable to determine if any police officers were involved in creating the image.

As part of the internal investigation, Phoenix demanded Turiano approve access to personal cell phone data that had been captured and stored in 2018 as part of a civil lawsuit into the 2017 protest response.

The department wants to search the data for a handful of specific terms related to the memorabilia and its featured language: “GOOD NIGHT LEFT NUT” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN ONE NUT AT A TIME.”

Officers on the protest response team did share messages about creating mementos in the hours and days following the shooting.

The day after, Lt. Pat Hoffman sent a text to fellow officers saying, “I recommend the inscription ‘protestus interruptus’ to be used to make the patch/hat more presentable.”

Three days following the shooting, Sgt. Doug McBride posted the controversial image on his Facebook page.

His post said, “My teams [sic] new patch since Tuesday!!”

In Turiano’s lawsuit, his attorneys claim that a search of his personal phone is a violation of the officer’s constitutional rights.

Phoenix’s attorneys argue that anything in the data about the coin could be considered public record, which must be disclosed regardless of whether it’s stored on a personal device.

In internal interviews, Turiano told Phoenix investigators he was provided two pieces of memorabilia — a coin and patch — but that he quickly gave them away to family or friends.

Turiano, who’s on the “Brady” list, said he didn’t remember who he gave them to.

Outside a hearing in his lawsuit on Dec. 7, Turiano declined to answer specific questions from ABC15 about the coin.

Phoenix police officials said in court that the department’s investigation into the coin remains open. However, portions of the case have been closed.

In previous statements, Phoenix police officials said the department “did not participate in, encourage, fund or sanction the creation” of the memorabilia.

ABC15 is currently investigating an alleged connection between the memorabilia’s image and being shown to recruits at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at