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Updated Apr 25, 2013 - 6:44 pm

DPS recommends charges in Prescott bar fight

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Members of a law enforcement motorcycle club assaulted
patrons at a Prescott bar and high-ranking officers tried to cover up the
group’s involvement, an investigative report released Thursday alleges.

Prescott Valley police Chief Bill Fessler and Yavapai County sheriff’s Sgt.
Bill Suttle both left their jobs following the brawl along Prescott’s Whiskey
Row that sent a man to the hospital with a bloodied and swollen nose.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety report accuses Suttle and Fessler of
obstructing the investigation and lying about the involvement of the Arizona
Chapter of the Iron Brotherhood Motorcycle Club.

Two others _ Phoenix police Officer Eric Amato and Greg Kauffman, a supervisor
at an Ajo ambulance service _ are accused of assault. The report also recommends
a charge of disorderly conduct against an alleged victim, Justin Stafford, and
says a second person received minor facial injuries.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will decide whether any formal charges
are warranted.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves declined to comment beyond
what’s in the report, which came out four months after the raucous fight.

The motorcycle club had been holding its Christmas party at another bar before
the fight broke out. Stafford has acknowledged he was drunk when he approached
Fessler and asked about the patches on his jacket. He previously told The
Associated Press that he didn’t see who hit him, and that a friend immediately
whisked him out of the bar.

Stafford’s father declined to comment Thursday on behalf of the family.

Witnesses who saw the members of the motorcycle club out that night said they
appeared to be drunk and rowdy, “acting like they were some outlaw motorcycle
gang,” according to police reports.

Suttle told a Prescott police officer that he “kind of” knew about the fight,
saying a kid grabbed one of the bikers and they got into a “tussle,” according
to the department’s report. The officer asked for the names of those involved,
and Suttle gave him Kauffman’s nickname, “Top Gun.” The officer said he
thought Fessler and Suttle were being “vague on purpose.”

An internal review of the Yavapai County sheriff’s employees said Suttle,
Deputy Mark Boan and Capt. Marc Schmidt, who has left the job, appeared to be
more loyal to the motorcycle club than to their jobs as law enforcement
officers.

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Mascher apologized Thursday “for any trust we may
have lost as a result of this event.” Mascher is not a member of the motorcycle
club and was not involved in the fight.

“I know the badge has been tarnished, and we will work relentlessly to regain
the community’s full trust and confidence,” he said.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson wouldn’t comment on Amato’s
involvement while the investigation is pending.

Prescott Valley town manager Larry Tarkowski said Fessler resigned earlier this
year over the bar fight and the embarrassment he caused himself and the
department. He said the town will begin an internal administrative review once
it receives the Department of Public Safety report.

“But until that time, we’re not in a position to take any action, if any
action is appropriate, with anybody that may have been involved,” he said.

At least two others in the Prescott Valley Police Department were listed as
members of the motorcycle club, but no charges were recommended against them.

A woman who answered the phone at the Ajo ambulance service where Kauffman
works said he would be out of town until Sunday. The Associated Press left a
message for an employee in human resources.

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