Tempe agrees to $300K settlement for Black man held at gunpoint by officer

Dec 10, 2020, 11:12 AM | Updated: 12:38 pm
(Screenshot/Tempe Police Department)...
(Screenshot/Tempe Police Department)
(Screenshot/Tempe Police Department)

PHOENIX – The city of Tempe has agreed to a $300,000 settlement with a Black hotel worker who was held at gunpoint earlier this year by a police officer who was looking for a white suspect.

The officer, Ronald Kerzaya, has been disciplined over the Aug. 29 incident, the city said Thursday in a press release.

Kerzaya had responded to a call about an armed man at the Hawthorn Suites at Southern Avenue and Price Road. The hotel manager told Kerzaya that the suspect was a white male, police said.

While searching the location, Kerzaya came across Trevonyae Cumpian. Kerzaya held Cumpian at gunpoint for several minutes until verifying the Black man’s identification with the hotel manager, according to the release.

Kerzaya, who was hired in 2017, was found to have violated several policies during the incident and is serving a two-week unpaid suspension, the city said.

“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 during the discipline process.

Kerzaya recently passed a psychological exam to determine his fitness to return to duty, but he won’t be allowed to resume patrol duties for at least a year, according to the release.

“My determination of discipline in Officer Kerzaya’s case does not excuse his behavior, which was unacceptable and disheartening. We must address the behavior,” Interim Tempe Police Chief Jeff Glover said in the release.

“But we must also take responsibility and make the changes that will help ensure this does not occur again.”

Kerzaya’s immediate supervisor, who was at the hotel when the incident occurred, received a 40-hour unpaid suspension for failing to properly manage the scene.

Cumpian filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the city over the incident. The Tempe City Council voted Wednesday to make the $300,000 payment to settle the case.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also has worked with the family of George Floyd, who died after a Minnesota police held a knee on his neck, and Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back by police in Wisconsin, represented Cumpian.

Crump said during a September press conference that cases such as Cumpian’s are evidence that “systematic racism and oppression” exists.

“That’s why we’re filing this lawsuit, to take on the entire system,” he said.

The hotel incident occurred about two weeks after new Tempe Mayor Corey Woods announced he was forming a public safety task force aimed at examining and innovating policing in the city.

The Tempe Citizens’ Panel for Review of Police Complaints and Use of Force will review the hotel incident in January, according to Thursday’s press release.

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Tempe agrees to $300K settlement for Black man held at gunpoint by officer