Major concerns over officer in Winslow shooting

Posted at 3:40 PM, Apr 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-20 21:22:01-04

At least two officers who trained an Arizona policeman who later shot and killed a woman armed with scissors had serious concerns about his work, including that he was too quick to go for his service weapon, ignored directives from superiors and falsified reports, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

A day before Officer Austin Shipley's training ended in September 2013, a police corporal recommended that the Winslow Police Department not retain him, the records show.

Shipley remained on paid administrative leave Wednesday, nearly a month after he fired five shots at Loreal Tsingine while responding to a report of shoplifting at a convenience store. Authorities have said Tsingine acted aggressively and threatened him with scissors. The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating the March 27 shooting.

The Winslow Police Department declined to comment Wednesday.

"The city believes this is necessary so as to not compromise the integrity of the investigation(s) and the decision to be made by the Navajo County attorney," city attorney Ellen Van Riper wrote in an email.

A cellphone number listed for Shipley was disconnected, and a call to a number listed for relatives went unanswered Wednesday.

The AP obtained copies of field officer training notes that outline Shipley's time as a recruit from May to September of 2013. The documents show he improved in learning department policies and procedures, interpersonal relationships and field operations. One training officer, Lawrence Dashee, even noted Shipley had the potential to become a great officer as long as he listened to his trainers.

However, as Shipley's training wrapped up, Cpl. Ron Chisholm wrote to Lt. Ken Arend and police Chief Steve Garnett and said, "I do not believe that this officer should be retained by the Winslow Police Department" and outlined a list of reasons. He cited integrity issues, failing to control suspects, not communicating with other officers, not accurately reporting facts and repeatedly questioning his training officers' directives.

Cpl. Jason Thermen also detailed worries about Shipley to a sergeant in mid-July 2013. He said Shipley wrongly believed his badge gave him license to harass the public and ridicule citizens of the small northeastern Arizona city.

Thermen also said Shipley was "pouting" because he didn't allow the trainee to get into fights with a drunken person and with someone during a welfare check.

"Shipley advised me the next day he went home and `pouted' because I took the fight away from him again," Thermen wrote.

Shipley later apologized to Thermen for his comment on harassment, saying he never would do anything to intentionally harm or ruin the public's trust in him.

Earlier that month, Chisholm noted Shipley was too quick to place his hand on his service weapon when encountering two subjects. Shipley did not draw his weapon then, but Chisholm said, "If this behavior continues, it is going to get someone hurt."

The documents provided to the AP do not say how the police department responded to Chisholm's recommendation that Shipley be kept off the force.

Stan Kephart, who was one of the first field training officers for the San Jose Police Department in California and is now a consultant on police practices, said police chiefs and command staff typically rely heavily on trainers' recommendations to determine if a recruit should be retained.

Shipley has been disciplined twice in the past three years, once for making in appropriate comments to a teenage girl and another time for unnecessarily deploying his stun gun on another girl. His personnel file also includes four letters of commendation.

The shooting of Tsingine, a Navajo woman, has prompted calls from Navajo Nation officials for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the treatment of American Indians who live in towns that border the reservation. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the agency is reviewing the requests.

Tsingine's cousin, Ty Yazzie, said Wednesday he would reserve comment on Shipley's training until the family has a fuller picture of his time as an officer and his actions the night of the shooting.