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Tempe disciplines officer, settles hotel gunpoint claim

Officer Ronald Kerzaya disciplined for holding Black hotel worker at gunpoint
Officer Kerzaya
Posted at 10:49 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 21:03:34-05

TEMPE, AZ — The City of Tempe has disciplined Officer Ronald Kerzaya and settled a legal claim from a hotel employee after the officer held the Black employee at gunpoint while he was supposed to search for a white suspect in August.

The City Council approved a $300,000 settlement for the hotel employee, Trevonyae Cumpian, during a meeting Wednesday night.

An internal investigation found Officer Kerzaya violated several policies during his response to a report of a man who held employees at gunpoint at the Hawthorn Suites hotel near Southern Avenue and Loop 101.

Police body camera video showed Kerzaya listening to the hotel manager's description of a white man shortly before encountering Cumpian at a side door of the hotel. Kerzaya held Cumpian at gunpoint and refused to release him until he received the manager's confirmation Cumpian was an employee.

Officer Kerzaya will remain in an administrative role with the department for at least one year, according to a city press release Thursday. He has also begun serving a two-week unpaid suspension for which he cannot substitute paid vacation hours.

Kerzaya will take part in a performance improvement process and has recently passed a psychological examination that determines fitness for duty, according to Tempe police.

Acting Tempe Police Chief Jeff Glover concluded that Kerzaya was responsible for his actions and should be held accountable. At the same time, Glover determined that the department had failed to adequately supervise Kerzaya and provide him mental and emotional support following trauma experienced during his career.

“I understand that my actions have caused a tremendous amount of anguish for many different people, and I cannot convey enough how remorseful I am for my actions and the aftermath that so many people have been forced to deal with and continue to deal with to this day,” Kerzaya wrote in his official response to the department's internal investigation.

Kerzaya’s immediate supervisor at the time of the Hawthorn Suites incident, who was also on-scene at the hotel, has received a 40-hour unpaid suspension.

Cumpain had hired nationally renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent his legal claim. The city's $300,000 settlement does not include any admission of liability.

Hired in 2017, Kerzaya was among the Tempe police officers who responded to an unrelated 2019 call for service involving Ivaughn Oakry, who had allegedly been involved in a domestic dispute.

Kerzaya and other officers at the scene were required to attend training in alternative approaches and techniques for that dynamic situation after using a taser on Oakry while he was holding a young child. Their actions were determined at the time to have been within department policy.