High ranking Phoenix officials, police chief Jeri Williams, sued by 3 former assistant chiefs

May 13, 2022, 8:07 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm

PHOENIX — Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, her executive assistant Michael Kurtenbach, City Manager Edward Zuercher and the city are being sued by three former assistant chiefs for defamatory statements made against them relating to charges brought on to protestors who were arrested in October 2020.

The lawsuit — brought on by commanders John Collins, Lawrence Hein and Gabriel Lopez — alleges Williams wrongfully demoted them for not informing her and Kurtenbach of the decision the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office made by bringing on gang-related charges to the protestors, according to court documents.

On Oct. 17, 2020, masked protestors were arrested by police officers when authorities believed they were intending to obstruct an oncoming light rail train, court documents show. They were arrested for unlawful assembly, participating in a riot, obstructing a thoroughfare and aggravated assault.

Four days later, the deputy county attorney and a detective with MCAO talked about charging the protestors with an offense of assisting a criminal street gang, according to court documents.

The former assistant chiefs were made aware of MCAO’s decision to bring on the additional charge on Oct 23. 2020, which they claim in the lawsuit to have reported to Kurtenbach “as soon as the meeting concluded.”

Less than one week later, on Oct. 23, 2020, the protestors received indictments from the Maricopa County grand jury for gang-related charges, among others.

But former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel moved to dismiss the charges on Feb. 12, 2021 “with prejudice”, based on several deficiencies in the criminal street gang-related charges, which court documents said, resulted in a political fallout within the city of Phoenix and its police department.

All three assistant chiefs were demoted without written notice or an evidentiary hearing on Aug. 12, 2021, based on the claims they failed to tell Williams and Kurtenbach of the MCAO’s decision to pursue gang-related charges, according to court documents.

Collins, Hein, and Lopez claim, according to the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, the city can’t lawfully discipline them without first providing them an evidentiary hearing, as well as without first proving that “just cause supports the disciplinary action,” according to court documents.

They further allege the claims made by Williams and Kurtenbach, and media campaigns launched by Zuercher against the three former assistant chiefs, placed them in a false light to their colleagues, members of the Phoenix City Council and the public.

Collins asked Williams what they had done wrong, with which she replied they were “collateral damage,” the court documents stated.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Sean Bickings (Family Photo via city of Tempe)...

Associated Press

Family of man who drowned last year in Tempe Town Lake files wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake a year ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Wednesday, noting that its police department doesn't have a policy requiring officers to go into the water to save someone.

19 hours ago

FILE - Cracked dry mud is seen in a community reservoir that ran nearly empty after its retaining w...

Brandon Gray

BLM to invest over $15M in Arizona for landscape restoration project

The Bureau of Land Management has selected Arizona for its “Restoration Landscapes” project. 

19 hours ago

(AP Photo/Alberto Mariani, File)...

Associated Press

Former Arizona official who claimed election deniers made work ‘toxic’ gets $130K settlement

A former elections official for a rural Arizona county where leaders have embraced election conspiracy theories has received a $130,000 settlement over toxic work environment claims.

19 hours ago

The stretch of 12th Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets at the Zone homeless encampment...

Kevin Stone

2nd block cleared out in Phoenix’s Zone homeless encampment

A second block at the Zone homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix was cleared Wednesday as enhanced cleanup operations continue.

19 hours ago

Booking photo for Melissa Larue, who was released from the hospital and taken to jail after getting...

Woman shot by Phoenix officers last week jailed after release from hospital

A woman shot by police officers in Phoenix last week has been released from the hospital and taken to jail, authorities said.

19 hours ago

(KTAR News Photo/Jason Veazey)...

Fire closes eastbound Loop 101 ramp to southbound State Route 51 in Phoenix

A fire closed the eastbound Loop 101 ramp to southbound State Route 51 in Phoenix for about three hours on Wednesday afternoon.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

High ranking Phoenix officials, police chief Jeri Williams, sued by 3 former assistant chiefs